How Your OB-GYN Can Help Protect Your Heart

doctor talking with patient

Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women? In fact, it kills more women than all types of cancer combined. If this is news to you, rest assured – you’re not alone. Research shows only 45 percent of women know that heart disease is their gender’s leading cause of death.

Many women think of their OB-GYN as their primary care provider (PCP), especially during their childbearing years. But teaming up with your OB-GYN to assess and treat any heart disease risk factors you may have could protect your ticker for many years to come.

The American Heart Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently issued a joint advisory encouraging OB-GYNs to screen and counsel women about heart health during annual well-woman exams.

How OB-GYNs Can Help

The advisory says that OB-GYNs should use the annual well-woman exam as an opportunity to provide a heart-health screening. This includes:

  • Taking a thorough family history
  • Screening for heart disease risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and abnormal cholesterol levels
  • Counseling women about healthy lifestyle changes, such as improving their diet and increasing their physical activity, if needed

“OB-GYNs are a key resource for protecting women’s heart health because there are several heart disease risk factors that are unique to women,” says Brett Adair, DO, an OB-GYN at UH Samaritan Women’s Care. They include:

  • Pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, preterm delivery and having a low birth weight baby
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Autoimmune disorders that occur more often in women such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus and scleroderma
  • Breast cancer treatments

“Along with traditional risk factors, it’s crucial for us to consider these factors, too, in order to gain a more comprehensive assessment of your heart health,” Dr. Adair says. “This information may also guide decisions about treatments we recommend, such as using medications to manage blood pressure or prevent blood clots.”

An estimated 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Dr. Adair says.

“During your next visit with your PCP or OB-GYN, be sure to ask about your heart health. Find out whether you have any risk factors and what you can start doing to control them,” he says. Partnering with your health care provider to protect your heart health can mean a longer, healthier life.”

Related Links

UH Women’s Cardiovascular Center

UH offers online self-scheduling for select UH physicians and specialties, including general OB-GYN. Or use our easy online tool to find a doctor and book an appointment at a time that is convenient for you.

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