The novel coronavirus is taking a physical toll on women, but it’s also affecting them in less obvious ways – socially, economically, and psychologically. Dr. Kimberly Kho, an Ob/Gyn, and Dr. Sharon Reimold, a cardiologist, discuss how women can safeguard their health and well-being during the pandemic.
Welcome to you to Southwestern. What to know. Women are facing added pressures during the pandemic. Many are juggling jobs with their kids. Virtual learning seeing the doctor may be the last thing on their to do list, joining us today to talk about women's heart health during the pandemic. Are dr Kimberly co the Associate Chief of Gynecology at UT Southwestern and Dr Sharon reinhold, a cardiologist and an expert on women's heart health. Thank you both for joining us. Medicine has really changed throughout the pandemic dr cho, tell us a little bit about what you're seeing and hearing from your patients at the beginning. I think there was a lot of fear and um just putting things in order figuring out what our procedures would be. But right now I actually have to say um bright spot of this is I feel like I've really gotten to know my patients even better. This crisis has opened up the opportunity for a lot of conversations that can feel really vulnerable even as a gynecologist who gets invited into the most intimate parts of people's lives this more. So we are openly and actively speaking about issues like anxiety and depression and social stress stressors at home and I think telemedicine as well has really facilitated that were welcomed into people's homes. We're seeing them in their living rooms with their kids running around. That really has been a highlight for of this experience dr Reingold, you know early in the pandemic as cardiologists, we were particularly concerned about heart patients who might be delaying care because they're concerned about Covid coming to the hospital, coming to the doctor. What are you seeing now over the last few weeks in the last two months, we've had a large number of patients who have been seeking care. It's exactly as you described. They didn't come to see us for four or five months after this first started. And now they're concerned because either their hardest racing, they're having chest pain, their blood pressure is high. You know, we've been really lucky because we've been able to see them not only in person but also see them by other methods like telephone visits or telehealth visits throughout the pandemic. Everyone I think has struggled with maintaining their own health. What advice have you been giving to your patients dr cho about staying healthy and improving their health during the pandemic. We're in this for the long haul. We're six months into it now and I think that women are seeing that they need to figure we need to figure out how to live a more healthy lifestyle. So I've been encouraging patients to do exercises at home. And then also thinking about, you know, healthier eating as well. I think um a lot of us eat comfort foods and baked tons of yummy treats to comfort ourselves during the early part of the pandemic. But really that's put on some weight. And we're noticing that um personally as well as within my patient population and um really making an effort to be more thoughtful about diet as well. And dr remo what symptoms should women be watching for for heart disease. The primary symptoms that we're concerned about our breathing problems, just discomfort of any of any sort. Sometimes women will present with heart disease and they've got back pain or arm pain those sorts of discomforts and then a change in blood pressure or a change in sensation of your heartbeat. Sometimes women don't want to report or don't wanna ruffle any feathers so they'll they'll delay delay until it actually becomes a significant problem. So we're encouraging them to let us know when they have something going on even if they think it's okay. Dr Cho one concern from all of us have been patients delaying their annual visits or other needed tests that they would normally get at routine intervals. Tell us what you're seeing and what you're concerned about. We want to make sure that women are getting their necessary health screenings including cancer screenings like their regular mammography mammograms are really necessary. You don't need to have them 365 days on the dot. But if you've delayed that for a few months you want to go ahead and get that scheduled. Much of what we do is about counseling and um and checking in about new simp or new concerns. And so we can continue a lot of the, well women evaluations that we do via telemedicine and if part of that conversation something arises that they need a face to face visit, then we can bring a patient in and do that very safely dr cho all of us hoped in the beginning of the pandemic this would all be over by now. Um it's not, as you said earlier, we're in it for the long haul. It appears. So what do you say to women who are thinking about becoming pregnant? I would tell women that you know, we do need to think about about timing of pregnancy doing it safely and planning if you are planning for it to do it in a thoughtful way, starting those vitamins, making sure you're living a good healthy lifestyle so that this pregnancy can be as safe and healthy as possible. I think on the flip side of that, patients who don't want to become pregnant also need to be thoughtful and reach out for birth control and reliable contraception. During this time there is access to your doctors out there who can help you initiate or continue reliable birth control is also an important message that we want to send dr remo, what are you telling your patients about improving their cardiovascular health during the pandemic, particularly patients who have known cardiovascular disease. You need to maintain, you know, regular exercise programs for most people in the United States. That means doing at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. You need to eat responsibly and and healthy. We've been seeing some people whose cholesterol levels have gone up through the roof because they're not eating responsibly. And then the last is I would say engage, engage not only with your health in terms of taking care of it and getting problems look evaluated promptly, but also engage in in other activities. You know, maybe the time to pick up a new hobby or you want to read some books you haven't had time to do, come up with other things that help engage you with your overall health and wellness, with the increased demands that have come on women's time. A lot of that's put a lot of strain on people's mental health. What advice are you giving to patients dr cho about sort of monitoring their own mental well being and how they, how they can change behaviors to improve that as well. Like most other women who are experiencing this, I felt a lot of fear and anxiety and have had to juggle raising small kids, maintaining a home and working full time as well. And it's been really stressful and I neglected at the early part of this, my own well being, I didn't do the things I'm telling you to do here today, like prioritize my physical and mental well being. So now I think a little bit later into this, I think to sustain the energy and the attention that this is going to require, making a point of really extra exercising daily and regularly putting more healthy food on the table and being careful about the way my where my attention goes. I found myself spending a lot of time on social media, reading news, seeing what the neighbors were saying, um taking a break from that and um actually spending that time with a mindfulness practice or getting on the mat and doing some yoga has really been really beneficial to me. I want to thank you both for joining us and for these important points that you've made in helping women protect themselves and stressing the importance of their own health during this pandemic. So thank you both very much. Thank you. Thank you. Flu season is almost here and next week we'll focus on this most difficult two flu seasons while we're still navigating the pandemic. So please join us next week and until then stay safe and stay healthy.