Austin cardiologist encourages heart disease awareness among OB/GYNs

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 1, 2012 at 5:39 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 1 at 5:41 PM

AUSTIN -- The number one killer among women is not breast cancer. It's heart disease. 

A Central Texas woman says she's alive today because of a program that alerts the doctors women see most, their OB/GYNs about the warning signs.

These days Cheryl Robertson's electrocardiograms reveal nothing but good news  That wasn't the case 10 years ago.

"I actually wondered if I was having a mild heart attack," said Roberston.

Caitlin Giesler, M.D., a cardiologist with the Seton Heart Institute, says Robertson's self diagnosis was pretty much right on.

"She had some EKG changes that were concerning to me," said Giesler.

The problem was it took almost a decade of chest pains before Robertson was referred to Giesler.  Giesler says Robertson's story is frequently playing out in other women as well.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of women," said Giesler. "Women are starting to learn that, but still only about 50 percent of women surveyed realized it is the number one killer among women."

Giesler says part of the problem is most women see only one physician.

"Most women use their OB/GYN as their primary care physician," said Giesler. "Even if they have another primary care physician, the OB/GYN is the one they tend to trust and the one they see most regularly." 

Giesler saw an opportunity to work with OB/GYNs about what to look for and what screenings might work best in normal OB/GYN visits. 

It's that awareness that allowed Robertson's OB/GYN to see the warning signs and refer her to Giesler. 

"I think it probably saved my life," said Roberston. "I hope more women become aware of just the mildest chest pains. Mine was really mild. I could not really relate to her how I was feeling, but she went the extra mile to try to figure it out."

Robertson was suffering from small vessel disease. Giesler adjusted her medication and after 10 years of sporadic chest pains, Robertson says she's never felt better. Giesler says women can prevent most if not all complications associated with heart disease simply by becoming aware of their risk factors -- blood pressure, cholesterol levels and whether they're diabetic and talking to their OB/GYN or primary care doctor about lowering those numbers.

 

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