By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

L to R: Jennifer Ashton, Jennifer Mieres, Haywood Brown, Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal and Sonia Angell at a panel discussion Wednesday in New York City.

Left to right: Jennifer Ashton, Jennifer Mieres, Haywood Brown, Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal and Sonia Angell at a panel discussion on women’s health Wednesday in New York City.

While heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women, only a fraction of them discuss heart health during annual ob-gyn visits, according to a new survey.

That missed connection between heart and reproductive health is important because many women consider their ob-gyns as their primary care doctor, said Jennifer Ashton, M.D., chief women’s health correspondent for ABC’s Good Morning America, who led a panel discussion Wednesday in New York City with several experts about the subject.

The panelists discussed the topic after a new survey from the American Heart Association and Woman’s Day magazine uncovered some troubling numbers.

Nearly one-third of women surveyed reported getting an annual check-up from their ob-gyn. But only 13 percent of women talk about heart health at their ob-gyn visit, according to the national online survey of about 1,000 women ages 18-64.

The survey found that only one in four women ranked heart disease as their No. 1 health threat. And although nearly three-fourths of women reported having a friend or family member with heart disease, 69 percent of respondents said they weren’t worried about their own heart health.

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown, who introduced the panelists, noted that biological changes during pregnancy can increase heart disease risk – so women must advocate for their heart health during childbearing years.

Cardiologist Jennifer Mieres, M.D., a national spokesperson for AHA’s Go Red For Women effort designed to raise awareness, agreed about the need for self-advocacy.

“Prioritizing your health has to be a 50/50 partnership between doctor and patient,” she said.

[A type of hypertension during pregnancy more dangerous than thought]

After giving birth, 60 percent of women with pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes didn’t discuss heart health with their ob-gyn, according to the survey.

Those discussions should happen, and they should include long-term health, said panelist Haywood Brown, M.D., president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The key is to improve relationships and communications between ob-gyns and cardiologists, Brown said. “We have to educate our colleagues about the relationships between many of the pregnancy complications we have and long-term health in women, and long-term cardiovascular health.”

[Hearts of pregnant women with preeclampsia may thicken after delivery]

Others involved in the panel discussion included Sonia Angell, M.D., deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, and Katie Jaxheimer Agarwal, vice president of operations for women’s telemedicine company Maven.