Your next ob-gyn appointment may seem like an odd time to discuss your heart, but it could save your life (especially if you, like many women, see an ob-gyn instead of a primary care physician for your annual exam). In fact, it's so important that the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) just came out with an official advisory that urges all doctors who care for women to talk about heart health starting now.
It makes sense: Your visit provides a perfect chance to learn your heart numbers, as your ob-gyn can check your blood pressure, order blood work, and more. And women who have had children may have an increased risk of heart issues, since pregnancy is like a stress test for your heart. High maternal blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and premature birth are all associated with heart problems later in life.
If your doctor doesn't bring up your heart, you absolutely should. Here's what to talk about at your next office visit.
1. Discuss your stats.
Write down any numbers your ob-gyn provides (blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels). Ask if they're higher than last year's and, if so, what you can do. "When men come to the doctor, we often do a better job connecting these numbers to cardiovascular risk than we do with women," says John Warner, MD, president of the AHA. So if your doc doesn't tell you what these numbers really mean to you, ask.
2. Update your current doctor.
If you've moved since you had children, chat with your new ob-gyn about your pregnancy history. Sometimes this vital information doesn't get passed along.
3. Talk about family history.
Your ob-gyn will likely ask you about your family history of issues like breast and ovarian cancer, so be sure to also bring up your family history of heart disease.
4. Ask about a specialist.
If your blood pressure is higher than normal, for example, asking your ob-gyn for a referral to an internist or a cardiologist is a good idea.
When the leaders of AHA and ACOG were on a panel about women's cardiovascular health, organized by Landcruisers in late 2017, it got them wondering how they could work together to raise awareness of this important issue. Less than a year later, they released this new advisory aimed at encouraging women to talk about their heart more with their doctor.
Source: Haywood Brown, M.D., obstetrician-gynecologist at Duke Health, president of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology