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New clinic tailored to women’s heart health


Morgan Liotta


29/03/2019 3:07:28 PM

A recently opened women’s heart clinic is catering for a shortage of specialised care for heart conditions that more frequently affect women.

Dr Monique Watts
Dr Monique Watts sees the new clinic as an opportunity to fill a need for advocacy in women’s heart health.

Dr Monique Watts, a cardiologist and heart failure specialist, is part of the team that started the Women’s Heart Clinic at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne at the beginning of this year, after planning and collaboration with similar centres in the US.
 
The need for greater prevention of heart disease in women and addressing a service gap are highlighted by Dr Watts as particular driving factors behind the clinic opening its doors.
 
‘Most Australian women aren’t aware that heart disease is the most likely thing to kill them,’ Dr Watts told newsGP.
 
‘Greater primary prevention is needed, but it’s always been difficult to know where to focus our efforts.’
 
The opportunity arrived to open the clinic to provide preventive heart health services, as well as to fill a need for advocacy in women’s heart health, which Dr Watts believes is currently lacking.
 
‘The clinic works to increase the profile and understanding of women’s heart disease in the general community and medical community,’ she said.
 
‘[There is an] increasingly apparent need for more specific and specialised care for patients with certain conditions that more frequently affect women – for example, women are more likely to experience different types of heart disease to men, such as myocardial infarction with non-obstructive coronary disease, spontaneous coronary artery dissection, coronary artery vasospasm and microvascular dysfunction.’
 
Dr Watts sees the new clinic as a facilitator of much needed female-specific research and healthcare provision, by having a group of specialists with a particular interest and skill set in managing these conditions which is ‘conducive to better care and better patient and GP education’.
 
A key focus of the Women’s Heart Clinic Heart is the care of women post-pregnancy, with evidence that women who experience pregnancy complications, such as hypertension and gestational diabetes, are more likely to develop heart disease.
 
‘Pregnancy [can] act as a stress test for the cardiovascular system,’ Dr Watts said.
 
‘Heart disease in pregnancy is increasing partly because there is more disease, and partly because we’re better at diagnosing and caring for it.
 
‘By creating a clinic for the prevention and management of heart disease in women, we have created a place for these “at risk” women to be seen by a cardiologist and multidisciplinary team in a timely fashion, be educated about their risk and assisted to address their risk factors to reduce the chance of them becoming a statistic.’
 
The Women’s Heart Clinic also offers access to female cardiologists for those patients with a preference, accommodating for the small percentage (14%) of female cardiologists in Victoria, according to Dr Watts.
 
As part of the multidisciplinary team care the clinic provides, GPs can begin the referral pathway by directing patients to the Women’s Heart Clinic.
 
‘GPs have a unique opportunity to ensure that their female patients have their risk adequately assessed and managed,’ Dr Watts said.
 
‘GPs can often be the only doctors to see otherwise healthy women who may not have been made aware – or may not recall – that their pregnancy complication places them at risk of heart disease.
 
‘This risk can be reduced and real changes made to outcomes.’



antenatal care heart disease heart health preventive health women’s health



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