Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Estimates suggest that one in 15 women of child-bearing age is diagnosed with PCOS. The condition is characterized by lack of ovulation and a difficulty conceiving a child. Aside from fertility problems, PCOS can have other health complications – including cardiovascular disease.
Other connections found in PCOS are related to artery-clogging triglycerides and insulin resistance, which contributes to diabetes. Lead researcher Sarah Berga said, “Although we understand that PCOS is a definite risk factor for CVD, we don’t know how great of a risk factor PCOS is and thus we need to put the risk in context.”
“Some women need intervention based on existing guidelines, either to control their blood sugar to head off diabetes, or reduce their cholesterol to moderate the risk of premature heart disease. For the rest, it’s a matter of treating each woman based on their individual needs. We know that PCOS puts these women at risk for CVD-related disease, but we do not yet understand the extent to which it does so,” Berga added.
PCOS delays early-life fertility, but increases fertility later on in life. This was important back in the times where there was increased famine – it would ensure that women could bear children for more years. In order to deal with famine, the body reacted with increasing insulin resistance for the future until food was more abundant. Berga explained, “PCOS might have been a good thing to have in times of food scarcity because it allowed the window of fertility to be extended and it allowed women to survive and reproduce in low fuel environments. Today we have calories all around us, and yet the body’s possible adaptation to another time still remains for some women. One way to look at PCOS is as a past adaptation gone astray.”
Although PCOS is known to cause infertility, stress sensitivity can also contribute to fertility problems in women. The latter works by shutting off the brain’s message to the ovaries. Similar to PCOS, stress sensitivity – as a fertility-affecting factor – has an evolutionary explanation. Berga concluded, “Both PCOS and stress sensitivity are ways to ensure that reproduction is successful. PCOS allows for reproduction in stressful times and stress sensitivity turns off reproduction during adverse conditions.”
Heart disease is a term that encompasses many conditions affecting the heart. These conditions are coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), high blood pressure (hypertension), and cardiomyopathy, which is a condition when the heart muscle becomes larger and thicker, and making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood properly.
Common risk factors for any of these heart conditions include PCOS, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
Because PCOS can increase the risk of other risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, it is important that you manage your PCOS in order to avoid complications that can put your heart at risk.
In order to reduce the risk of heart disease in PCOS, it’s important to manage and control the many risk factors associated with heart disease that become present in PCOS. For one, it’s important that you manage your weight. Being obese not only increases the risk of heart disease, but it can contribute to other risk factors for heart disease, too. Therefore, stick with a healthy diet and exercise regularly in order to keep your weight within a healthy range.
Your diet should be low in sodium and saturated fat as these two components increase blood pressure and lead to cholesterol as well – two other heart disease risk factors that should be managed, too.
By following these tips you can better lower your risk of heart disease with PCOS.