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Managing Heart Disease
Heart Disease is the number one killer in the U.S., and a common cause of death in North Carolina. It is caused by the narrowing of blood vessels to the heart, a condition linked with high blood pressure and cholesterol. Heart disease can be treated or controlled by means of diet, exercise, and medication. See the NC Health Info page on Heart Disease for more information.
There are several different kinds of medical providers that can treat or help you manage your heart disease. These providers often work together as a team to help you develop a personalized heart disease care plan.
You can use your health insurance plan’s directory to find a heart disease care provider in your network. Or you can use the Physician Compare directory from Medicare.gov to find a provider that accepts Medicare. Enter your city or zip code and “Cardiology” in the search box titled “What are you searching for?” Directories for specific types of providers are listed below.
A primary care provider (PCP) may be a family physician, nurse practitioner, internist, or a physician’s assistant. Generally you see a PCP for checkups, common health problems, and when you get sick. The PCP is usually the first health care professional you will see. Since heart disease is complicated, your PCP will put together a team of providers to help you with whatever heart disease-related issues you may have. Your PCP will coordinate your care among these other specialists and team members. Your health insurance plan may require you to get the doctor's referral for visits to the other health professionals on the team.
A family physician, is a general practitioner with additional specialty training and expertise in dealing with patients of all ages. Family physicians may provide both preventive care (routine checkups) and diagnosis and treatment of a chronic illness, like heart disease. Family physicians will coordinate your care with other subspecialists when needed. Some family physicians have special training in heart disease. Use the American Board of Family Medicine to find a family physician.
Internal medicine specialists, also known as internists, focus on treating adult and adolescent medical disorders and provide long-term, comprehensive care. Internists are trained to treat the whole body, not just the internal organs, and they see patients for a variety of conditions and complaints, including heart disease. Internists often provide preventive medicine and patient education services related to heart disease. Use the American Board of Medical Specialties Certification Matters service to find a board certified internist near you. You must register first. Choose North Carolina as the state and Internal Medicine as the specialty.
A physician’s assistant (PA) is a licensed and certified professional who provides a range of services under the direction and supervision of a doctor. PAs use effective screening and diagnostic procedures for heart disease. They can establish treatment goals for you, teach you about healthy lifestyles, and motivate you to take care of yourself. To find a PA who treats heart disease use the North Carolina Medical Board Licensee Search. Choose Physician Assistant as the License Type and Cardiology as the Area of Practice. Leave the other fields blank.
If your general medical doctor feels that you might have a significant heart or related condition, he or she may refer you to a cardiologist for additional help. A cardiologist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and intervention of diseases of the heart and cardiovascular system. To locate a cardiologist, use this directory from the American Medical Association.
Thoracic surgeons treat issues related to the chest, including problems affecting the heart, lungs and windpipe. To find a thoracic surgeon, use this directory from the American College of Surgeons. Enter your zip code and then “Thoracic” in the Subspecialty text box. To locate a thoracic surgeon that accepts Medicare, use the Physician Compare directory. Enter your zip code and select “Thoracic surgery” from the drop-down menu.
What you eat can make a difference in how well you control your heart disease. Your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian (RD) to develop a food plan based on your eating preferences, schedule, and nutrition needs. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease and have health insurance, it will probably cover visits to a dietitian/nutritionist. To locate a registered dietitian nutritionist, use this directory from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Mental Health Care Providers
Living with a condition such as heart disease can sometimes affect your mental health. To locate a counselor to help you manage the psychological stress of coping with a heart condition, use this directory from the Licensed Professional Counselors of North Carolina.
Clinical trials are research studies that examine whether a medical treatment or device is safe and effective for human beings. Many of the drugs and therapies available today are the result of clinical trials. To learn more, and to decide whether participating in a clinical trial is right for you, visit ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
There are many support groups, advocacy organizations, blogs, social media, and news sources to help you cope with heart disease. The heart disease community is made up of patients, caregivers, health care providers, and associations who offer support and share their knowledge to anyone touched by heart disease. To find a support group near you, use this directory from First Health of the Carolinas. To explore online support communities, use this list of online communities compiled by the American Heart Association.
Heart Disease Supplies: Information about financial assistance with heart disease mediactions, supplies, related health care items and services can be found at the Partnership for Prescription Assistance. Click on the green “Get Started” icon and follow the prompts.
Free and Reduced Cost Clinics: Use this directory from the North Carolina Institute of Medicine to search over 300 free and reduced cost clinics across North Carolina by location, hours of operation, insurance accepted (private, Medicaid, uninsured etc.) and type of service provided.
Do you have a health related question? You are welcome to use the Health Sciences Library's Ask a Librarian service.
Our librarians are happy to help you with questions such as "How is diabetes diagnosed?" or "What is heart disease?". We can not answer questions about an individual's medical case or care. Please contact your doctor for specific medical advice.