By Dr. Sally Haskell, Deputy Chief Consultant for Women’s Health Services
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
As VA Goes Red for heart health month, women Veterans are encouraged to work with their primary care providers to make a personal plan for heart healthy living. If women Veterans haven’t had a primary care visit in a year, they are encouraged to “make a date.”
Heart disease is the number one killer of women and high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, or smoking can increase your risk of heart disease.
Ignore the myths — Here are the facts
- Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent.
- Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counteract your other healthy habits.
- Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood.
- Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back or jaw pain, and sometimes unexplained excessive fatigue.
Reviewing Heart Health with your Primary Care Provider
At your check up with your primary care provider you should have a discussion about your cardiovascular health and risk factors. Since heart disease is the number one killer of women, and kills more women than all forms of cancer combined, your primary care visit will emphasize cardiovascular risks and making a personal plan for heart healthy living.
The American Heart Association estimates that 80 percent of all cardiovascular disease may be preventable, and it’s always better to prevent it than treat it after it becomes life threatening.
Women Veterans Program Managers provide advice and advocate for women Veterans.
What to Expect. What to Bring.
When you make an appointment to see your primary care provider, women Veterans should use the tips below to prepare and check here for more information on these tips.
- Make a list of questions to ask the doctor.
- Start researching your family’s health history.
- Know all your prescription medications that you currently take.
Important Questions to Ask Your Doctor
There are important questions you can ask your doctor to help them pinpoint any specific health concerns that need to be addressed, and to help you better understand your own condition.
- Will you please explain all these numbers to me? Systolic? Diastolic? Pulse rate, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels, body mass index, and so on.
- What do you think about my current medication regimen?
- Is (fill in the blank) something to be concerned about? Changes in your weight, digestion issues, joint pain, headaches, skin conditions, etc.
- When will the lab results be in?
- Are there any particular things I need to keep an eye on?
- Is there anything in my family history I should watch out for?
- Are there any additional tests, screenings, or counseling you recommend?
- Are all my shots current?
- Could you recommend a diet and exercise regimen?
Scheduling Your Appointment
At each VA Medical Center nationwide, a Women Veterans Program Manager is designated to provide advice and to advocate for women Veterans. Your program manager can help coordinate all the services you may need, from primary care to specialized care for chronic conditions or reproductive health.
Women Veterans who are interested in receiving care at VA should contact the nearest VA Medical Center and ask for the Women Veterans Program Manager.