You know that well-woman visits are important for your reproductive health. But you may not know your OB/GYN is often your first line of defense in evaluating heart health, too.
First Line of Defense
If you’re like most women I know, many other situations in your life tend to take priority over your health – which means you might not see your primary care physician regularly. In many cases, women visit their OB/GYN more frequently than their primary care physician. Let’s face it – sometimes it’s easier to wait out a cold than come to the office when you’re pretty sure the recommendation is over-the-counter medication and rest. In many other cases, moms tend to get whatever illness their children happen to be passing around and, after making sure their kids get proper medical attention, just follow the wellness plan the pediatrician recommends for their kids. But this isn’t necessarily true when it comes to visiting an OB/GYN. Studies show that women are more likely to see these doctors than their family doctors during the course of a year, so your OB/GYN can be your first line of defense when it comes to recognizing potential issues with your heart and evaluating your heart health.
Your Well-Woman Visit
The importance of well-woman visits is more readily recognized now than it was even 10 years or so ago – and most are now covered under the majority of insurance plans. This might be the reason so many women choose not to neglect this very important doctor’s visit now. And it is very important. Not only will your doctor likely screen you for potential health issues such as HPV and certain types of cancers – most commonly cervical and breast cancer, but tests will be performed that shed light on your heart health as well. Most women – up to 90 percent, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – have at least one risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Did you know that your pregnancy history can possibly predict your future cardiovascular risk? For example, having high blood pressure in pregnancy can double your risk of future heart disease and stroke or quadruple your risk of high blood pressure later in life. This means that when your OB/GYN performs your well-woman checkup, he or she will also be able to tell you whether you have conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or whether you have or are at risk for diabetes. While your primary care physician can also evaluate and detect these, ACOG has found that because you’re seeing your OB/GYN more often, he or she may be in a better position to monitor your heart health.
Be Heart Healthy
Making those yearly preventive appointments is crucial to your physical wellbeing. Your OB/GYN will be able to monitor your reproductive health to make sure you’re not at risk for any potential conditions, as well as check your overall health to give you a heads up on other potential problems. It’s just as important to keep your heart health in mind in between visits. Aim to exercise regularly – especially cardiovascular exercises like walking, swimming or biking. Drink plenty of water, curb tobacco and alcohol intake and eat well. This means plenty of good protein, like fish, and lots of fruits and green, leafy vegetables.
Dr. Rao is a board-certified Obstetrics and Gynecology specialist at Kelsey-Seybold’s Tanglewood Clinic and Woman’s Center. Her clinical interests include minimally invasive surgery, general and high-risk Obstetrics, adolescent Gynecology, menstrual irregularities, and menopausal disorders and management.