Ladies, speak up to primary care doctors for your heart health
In a 2018 opinion piece in USA Today, singer Barbra Streisand, founder of the Women's Heart Alliance and the Cedars-Sinai Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center, wrote, "Today in America, women are being sent to early graves because our country has failed to combat a disease that kills more of us annually than all forms of cancer combined."
Neglect of women's heart health happens repeatedly in primary care physicians' offices. Researchers looked at more than 43 international studies with 2.2 million patients and found that primary care doctors write fewer prescriptions for aspirin, statins and ACE-inhibitors (high blood pressure meds) for women who are at high risk for a heart attack or with established cardiovascular disease than for similarly endangered men. In fact, women receive 19% fewer aspirin prescriptions; 10% fewer statin prescriptions and 15% fewer ACE-inhibitors than men.
That means women need to be vigilant guardians of their heart health by making sure primary care docs regularly check inflammation markers, LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure, and discuss the potential repercussions of the results. If you have elevated blood pressure, lousy LDL cholesterol or a chronically increased level of inflammation and are not prescribed medication to combat it, ask, "Why are you not recommending a statin?" "Would high blood pressure medicine help protect my heart and brain?" And "What can I do to reduce the inflammation?"
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women. If you're a woman with preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity or if you smoke cigarettes or are over age 60, then you have a higher risk for developing heart disease. At annual checkups, your primary care physician should evaluate your heart health. You can empower yourself by tracking your blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Also, be aware that signs of heart attack can be different in women. These include pain in the neck, jaw, shoulders, upper back and abdomen, shortness of breath, sweating, lightheadedness, dizziness and nausea. Finally, if you feel your primary care physician isn't giving you the care you need, consider making an appointment with a cardiologist, who can conduct a full workup and make decisions on which medications to prescribe.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
(c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.(c) 2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.