An OB/GYN for your heart?
Not long ago a visit to the obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) meant one thing to most women: an internal exam that included a Pap test. Over the past 10 years, that routine has changed to include much more, including screening for heart disease.
“OB/GYNs provide annual well-woman exams and comprehensive care in conjunction with a patient’s primary care physician,” said Lindsay LaCorte, DO, MPH, a new OB/GYN at Cape Cod Hospital. “In addition to traditional gynecologic health that includes a pelvic exam, Pap smear and breast exam, we evaluate routine screenings for everything from anemia, heart health, thyroid, osteoporosis, cancers, kidney disease, musculoskeletal problems and more.”
Dr. LaCorte joined Cape Cod Healthcare in December 2018. She is a graduate of Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, West Islip, New York.
“The main philosophy of my training is to see the patient as a whole. As an osteopathic physician, I was trained to treat the whole person, as a unit of body, mind and spirit. I believe in helping patients to achieve a healthy, balanced lifestyle and to promote health maintenance. At each appointment, my focus is on understanding and treating the whole person,” she said.
A Change for Patients Over 40
This evolution in the role of the OB/GYN was recommended by a joint advisory from the American Heart Association and American College Of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It may be news to patients over 40.
According to the advisory: "As the leading healthcare 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. By acknowledging and discussing the risks and communicating steps women can take to reduce their odds of developing heart disease, OB-GYNs have a powerful opportunity to be the secret weapon in the fight against heart disease.”
As cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death in women, the advisory recommends that cardiologists and OB/GYNs work collaboratively “to optimize early identification and modification of risk factors for heart disease and stroke” to improve women’s health.
That collaboration is a natural expectation these days, said Dr. LaCorte, along with coordination of care with primary care physicians (PCPs) and other specialists as needed.
“When I meet a new patient, one of my first questions is, ‘Do you have a primary care provider?’ The role of the PCP is very important as physicians work together to coordinate care for each patient. In some cases, I can refer patients to the appropriate specialists for their specific needs, such as a cardiologist for heart care,” she said.
Traditional risk factors for heart disease – such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity – may affect women differently than men, she added. Pregnancy and menopause can also affect heart health, so OB/GYNs need to be informed and aware of all their patients’ needs.
A Bread-and-Butter Doctor
“I like to keep it simple,” she said. “I’m a bread-and-butter gynecologist. If something is outside of my expertise, I believe it is important for it to be managed by the appropriate provider. And I will refer to the PCP or other specialist.”
As an osteopathic physician, Dr. LaCorte also utilizes osteopathic manipulations in her practice. This hands-on technique gently moves joints and tissues to help correct any restrictions in the nerves and muscles that can be caused by or lead to other problems.
“Osteopathic manipulation can help with a number of conditions and is one of the reasons I wanted to be an osteopathic physician,” she said. “I’m interested in providing patients with the care they need to be healthy.”
OB/GYNs deal with a little of everything, they discuss age-appropriate things going on in a person’s life that can affect each patient’s health, she added.
“We don’t just deal with pregnancy and menopause. I remember that there are other things going on in a patient’s life. I talk with each patient about things like exercise and a healthy lifestyle in addition to routine screenings.”