Your Heart and the Doctors Who Care For It

By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN

When Bill, who has diabetes and a family history of heart disease, had chest pain, he was told to see a special type of heart doctor—an “interventional cardiologist.” Like other heart doctors, he treats problems of the heart and blood vessels. Bill wondered what this specialty is and what an interventional cardiologist does. You, like Bill, might have seen these terms and wondered the same thing.

Some examples of interventional cardiology are:


Angioplasty opens blocked arteries to restore normal blood flow to your heart muscle. A special balloon is inserted in your blocked artery and inflated; this opens up the blockage once the balloon is removed. Sometimes a tiny wire-mesh tube is inserted to help keep the artery open; this is called a “stent.”

Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) control

Treating abnormal areas of the heart with freezing temperatures and radio-frequency energy can restore normal heart rhythm.

Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Specialists

Because diabetes is considered a hormonal disease, most people who have diabetes see an endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormonal diseases. People with diabetes are at twice the risk for developing heart disease, so many people with diabetes have a cardiologist, too. In the fields of both endocrinology and cardiology, there are sub-specialties. Two cardiology subspecialties are preventive cardiology and interventional cardiology.

Preventive Cardiology

Preventive cardiology is dedicated to the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease. The same things you do to manage your diabetes are part of what you do to prevent heart disease. Preventive cardiology includes both informal and formal programs.

Informal programs can be as simple as your health care provider (HCP) assessing your risks for heart disease and teaching you ways to decrease these risks. For example, your HCP teaches you the importance of making healthy lifestyle choices to help you obtain and maintain a healthy weight. These lifestyle choices usually include healthy eating, physical activity and stress management. You may also be treated with medications to reach your recommended targets.

Formal programs involve a team of health care providers with programs to help you reach your targets and prevent heart disease. These programs can consist of meeting with a cardiologist, then regularly participating in an exercise program, better known as a cardiac rehab program, These programs may also have exercise physiologists, formal dietary education programs taught by dietitians, diabetes education classes taught by Certified Diabetes Educators, stress management classes run by psychologists, and more. Many times, besides meeting one-to-one with your cardiologist, these other programs are group programs.

Interventional Cardiology

Interventional cardiology deals specifically with the treatment of heart diseases once you have a problem. An interventional cardiologist is specially trained to perform these procedures. These types of procedures are considered minimally invasive because only a catheter is inserted in your body. Surgical procedures such as a cardiac bypass are considered invasive because the chest area needs to be opened.  In these minimally invasive procedures, the cardiologist numbs a spot on your groin or arm and then threads a catheter (plastic tube) into an artery, and then a wire is inserted through the catheter so it can travel to the heart via the artery.. Once there, the procedure needed can be performed. Once the procedure is performed, the catheter is removed. These are relatively painless procedures. You will need to lie still for a few hours after the procedure to prevent any bleeding at the catheter site. If you are taking any form of metformin, you may need to stop it before and after the procedure. Be sure to tell your health care team before you have any procedures done and ask about their policy on metformin.

Whether you have heart disease or you don’t, diabetes does increase your risk. Remember, when it comes to diabetes and any of its complications, prevention is the best medicine.

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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

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In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

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Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

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Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

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