Should Your OB/GYN Care for Your Heart?

Heart disease risk factors can be evaluated effectively at OB and GYN clinics

(RxWiki News) The doctor many women know best - and see most often is their OB/GYN. So, your OB/GYN may be the best person to screen you for cardiovascular risk factors along with your annual exam.

Though the leading cause of death among U.S. women, heart disease can be treated if identified early, and a new study reveals that OB/GYN clinics may be a good place to identify the risk factors.

"Ask any of your doctors - including OB/GYN - about your risks for heart disease."

An additional opportunity for screening women could be especially beneficial since deaths resulting from heart disease have been increasing by one percent each year among women aged 35 to 44, according to background information in the study.

Lead author Roxana Mehran, M.D., director of interventional cardiovascular research and clinical trials at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, and colleagues conducted a study by implementing a pilot cardiovascular screening program at ten OB/GYN clinics from January 2010 to January 2012.

The program included a questionnaire of risk factors and symptoms of heart disease and a blood pressure reading for any women who had not been previously screened.

Among the 2,234 women screened, nearly half of women were past menopause, 69 percent had risk factors for heart disease and 42 percent had symptoms of it.

Mehran's team concluded that these high numbers of symptoms and risk factors among the women indicated an opportunity for OB/GYN clinics to assess women's cardiovascular health and risks, especially since 18 percent of the women regarded their OB/GYN as their primary health care provider.

“We found a real lack of awareness among many of these women that they had risk factors," Mehran said. "OB/GYN practices have an incredible opportunity to make an impact on heart disease in women by screening, educating and directing women to the right providers."

A quarter of the women were referred for additional cardiovascular evaluation to another physician following their OB/GYN visit, whether a primary care doctor, a cardiologist, an endocrinologist or another appropriate specialist.

Among the women, about 20 percent did not know or hadn't ever had a testing of their blood pressure or blood sugar levels, and over a third didn't know or hadn't had tested their cholesterol levels.

Mehran and her colleagues recommended that additional trials be conducted with larger patient groups.

“There is a real disparity in the medical community where we tend to think heart disease is a disease of men, and historically we have not done a very good job of screening women for cardiovascular risk factors,” Mehran said.

“It often doesn't occur to women that they could have a heart problem until their symptoms are very advanced, so we have to think differently and be creative about how we identify, educate and treat women at risk,” she added.

The research, funded by Abbott Vascular, was presented March 25 at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session. Information regarding potential financial disclosures was unavailable.

Review Date: 
March 28, 2012