More than 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, yet most women are unaware that heart disease is their leading cause of death in the United States. Less than half (39%) of primary care physicians, including ob-gyns, consider cardiovascular disease to be a top concern for women.
Last month, ACOG and the American Health Association released a joint advisory calling on ob-gyns to use annual well woman exams as an opportunity to assess a woman’s risk for heart disease. For many women, their ob-gyn is the only physician they see routinely, particularly women during their childbearing years. This emphasizes the important role of the ob-gyn to identify risk factors for heart disease and stroke—long before clinical signs are apparent. Not doing so is a missed opportunity for early detection and intervention.
Research shows that pregnant women with complications like preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and growth restricted babies, have three times the risk of later cardiovascular disease than women without these pregnancy complications. Additionally, cardiovascular events and cardiomyopathy are the leading causes of maternal mortality in the U.S., together accounting for 25 percent of all maternal deaths.
As the leading health care providers for women, we can be a powerful voice for patients, counseling and educating them on how to achieve and maintain long-term heart health. Whether it’s advising patients about healthy diet and lifestyle, or taking advantage of high-tech solutions such as software algorithms that can trigger patient education and referrals by analyzing data contained in electronic medical records, the well woman exam is an opportunity for us to deliver patient-centered care.
I’m so excited to share more with you during my year in office, and to hear from you directly. Connect with me on twitter at @TXmommydoc.