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The difference between an M.D. and D.O. cardiologist

You may have noticed some physicians have an "M.D." in their title, while others have "D.O." What is the difference, particularly when it comes to cardiologists? Karen Wiarda, D.O., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart, explains.

The difference between a D.O. and M.D.

"A D.O. is a doctor of osteopathy," says Dr. Wiarda. "The focus of the D.O. is looking at the full spectrum of a patient."

This "whole patient" approach means the physician is not only looking at the medications with which to treat a patient, but other approaches, such as lifestyle modifications and osteopathic manipulative medicine, as well.

Osteopathic manipulative medicine is best described as training in chiropractic and massage, says Dr. Wiarda.

"M.D.s and D.O.s practice medicine the same way and we're trained the same way," she says. "The difference is, [D.O.s] have additional training in osteopathic manipulative medicine, which focuses on the entire body and the mechanics of the body."

Lifestyle choices and disease symptoms

As a cardiologist, Dr. Wiarda looks not only at a patient's physical symptoms, but his or her lifestyle choices, family history, body mechanics and chronic pain. She places an emphasis on prevention and educates her patients on diet, exercise and smoking cessation, as well as any necessary medications.

"Body alignment is very important," she says. "Exercises like yoga can be very helpful for good body alignment. It keeps your core and your muscles strong, and all of that is going to help [your cardiovascular fitness] and importantly, with mood and well-being."

The bottom line: "If you see M.D. or D.O., they're both medical degrees, and you're still going to get excellent care."

For more information on heart health, click here.

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