Traditional risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

A well visit to her gynecologist can benefit a woman’s heart, two leading U.S. medical groups say.

“As the leading health care providers for women, OB/GYNs provide care that goes far beyond reproductive health and are in a unique position to screen, counsel and educate patients on heart health,” said Dr. Haywood Brown, immediate past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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Our Take

Heart disease affects one-third of all women.

Did you know that it also happens to be the No. 1 killer of women and causes 17.5 million deaths per year? That’s the bad news.

The good news is that heart disease is preventable, or at least it can be delayed by many years. Heart attacks do not have to happen at such an alarming rate; in fact, they shouldn’t even happen at all.

Heart rehabilitation, lifestyle changes and medications can save lives by preventing heart attacks.

Diana Bitner, MD, NCMP, Spectrum Health Medical Group, is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and shares these details and more in a recent blog post.

Read her blog post to learn more.

“OB/GYNs have a powerful opportunity to be the secret weapon in the fight against heart disease,” Brown added in an American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists news release.

In a joint advisory, ACOG and the American Heart Association said annual well-woman exams by obstetrician-gynecologists should include a heart disease risk assessment. The advisory emphasizes the value of collaborative care between ob-gyn specialists and cardiologists.

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death in American women. And about 90 percent of them have at least one heart disease and stroke risk factor.

“The annual ‘well woman’ visit provides a powerful opportunity to counsel patients about achieving and maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle, which is a cornerstone of maintaining heart health,” said Dr. John Warner, president of the American Heart Association.

Traditional risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity—affect both sexes, but some may affect women differently or be more significant.

The statement said OB/GYNs are uniquely qualified to identify and treat woman-specific conditions that may increase a woman’s risk of heart disease or stroke.

Certain pregnancy complications, for example, indicate a subsequent increase in the mother’s heart risk. They include pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational high blood pressure, preterm delivery and low birth weight.