AVH’s New Cardiologist & Cardiac Electrophysiologist
The heart is perhaps the body’s most vital organ, pumping oxygen-rich blood and other nutrients to the rest of the body. Helping our residents and visitors maintain a healthy cardiovascular system is an important part of the specialized medical care Aspen Valley Hospital provides. For that reason, AVH is pleased to welcome a new cardiologist – Joseph L. Schuller, MD, FHRS – to our medical staff.
Dr. Schuller is a cardiovascular disease specialist and a cardiac electrophysiologist. A Minnesota native, he graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and has over 15 years of diverse experience in cardiology.
Dr. Schuller is seeing patients at Aspen Cardiology, located at the Hospital, as well as seeing patients in Basalt, at the clinic co-located with AVH’s After-Hours Medical Care, at 234 Cody Lane. Appointments can be made by calling 970.544.7388.
A Q&A with Dr. Joseph L. Schuller:
What type of care does a cardiovascular disease specialist/cardiac electrophysiologist provide?
As a cardiologist, I provide the typical cardiovascular care, such as dealing with arteriosclerosis (which occurs when the blood vessels become thick and stiff, restricting blood flow), congestive heart failure and heart valve diseases. As a cardiac electrophysiologist, I focus on heart rhythm disorders. The most commons is atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heart rate that may increase your risk of stroke and heart failure. I work with patients to manage their disorder through medication or catheter ablation. I also manage other arrhythmias such as SVT, PVCs and ventricular tachycardia. I also implant pacemakers and defibrillators.
When would a patient need to see a cardiologist?
Most patients will come to me as a referral from their primary care physician after they have experienced symptoms of a heart problem (shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pains or changes in heart rate) or after a visit to the emergency room because they had an acute heart condition.
What type of specialized training and certification is required to become a cardiologist?
Beyond four years of medical school, you undergo three years of training dedicated to internal medicine and then complete a three- to four-year fellowship in cardiovascular diseases. I also completed another two-year fellowship in heart rhythm disorders and an extensive board certification process.
What brings you to Aspen Valley Hospital and its Network of Care?
While I was working at the University of Colorado, I did an outreach clinic at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for two days a month for the past seven years. I got to know many of the doctors and patients in the area. When the opportunity arose to move here permanently – considering the wonderful people, facilities and lifestyle – it was an easy decision for my wife and me to make.
What do you hope to bring to our community?
A more consistent presence of an arrhythmia specialist for the community. As a whole, the population here is quite healthy and a little bit older than the national average. But when you combine age, altitude and regular exercise, irregular heartbeat issues are more common. I bring a knowledge base and skill set that is unique to the area. I look forward to developing the practice.
What is your philosophy about providing care to your patients?
I help my patients manage their symptoms by tailoring treatment to their individual needs. I also help evaluate their risks for heart issues. A patient may not feel anything wrong at the moment, but he or she may be at risk for more severe complications. My goal is to prevent something bad from happening.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. What steps would you recommend to reduce the risk for heart disease?
From a lifestyle standpoint, there is plenty you can do. If you smoke, stop. This is perhaps the single best thing you can do for your heart. Also, maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet that minimizes the intake of red meats, processed foods, fat and sugar and promotes a higher percentage of fruits and vegetables. It’s also important to know your cholesterol levels and get them under control. If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar level controlled.
What are some of the new trends in preventing, diagnosing and treating heart disease?
Specifically to irregular or abnormal heartbeats, the idea of ambulatory monitoring has changed significantly. It used to be that you wore devices on your chest and monitors on your belt for weeks at a time. Everything is getting smaller and more mobile, and the data quality is much improved. Our ability to monitor heart rhythms for long periods of time has improved tremendously.