It’s a condition in which the ovaries produce an abnormal amount of male sex hormones, also known as “androgens” rather than the small amounts usually present in women.
This causes irregular periods, acne and hair in all the wrong places…plus weight gain.
And if you’re still in the child-bearing years, even if you don’t want kids now, it will make you wonder whether your body will cooperate when it comes to making a baby.
But…as if all that wasn’t enough, doctors are now cautioning women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome to think about their heart health as well.
In a statement issued by Erin Michos, M.D., associate director of preventive cardiology at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, she cautions:
“Women worry about infertility, acne and weight gain but might not be thinking of high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes. It’s important to know that they’re at an increased risk and how important diet and exercise is.”
The Connection between the Heart, Diabetes and the Ovaries
Many women with PCOS are insulin resistant, meaning that insulin can build up in the body, making it difficult to keep up normal blood glucose levels.
- Since this is an important risk factor for diabetes, women with PCOS are especially at risk for developing diabetes as well.
In fact, 35% of women with PCOS have pre-diabetes and 10% go on to develop diabetes by age 40.
- The higher levels of the male hormones (androgens) also increase the risk of Diabetes.
Because excess insulin can cause weight gain, women with PCOS tend to be overweight or obese, particularly in the abdominal area.
- This belly fat, called “visceral fat,” can lead to higher triglycerides (the main components of natural fats and oils).
High concentrations of triglycerides in the blood point to a higher risk of stroke, and lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol your body needs.
Heart Disease Risk Factors and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS risk factors, such as being overweight or having insulin-resistant diabetes or higher blood pressure, are associated with cardiovascular disease.
- Studies suggest that women with PCOS have a twice as likely risk of a future cardiovascular event, like a heart attack or stroke.
Diabetes Risk Factors and PCOS
The connection between PCOS and diabetes is not fully understood, but women with PCOS are more likely to develop diabetes if they have these risk factors:
- A family history of diabetes
- Higher blood pressure
- African-American or Hispanic heritage
Healthy Lifestyle Choices to Help Control PCOS
- Women with PCOS are urged to be vigilant about diet and exercise to reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Everyone should follow a healthy lifestyle, but especially women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome because they’re at greater risk.
It’s important, also, to educate young women, who, in general, exercise less than young men, because they’re not thinking of their heart health.
Although they may be concerned about irregular menstruation and infertility, we need to make them aware of the risks of diabetes and heart disease as they may potentially have an impact on their futures.
- Diabetes Can Hide Heart Disease-Or A Heart Attack
- A Woman’s Heart
- Why Are So Many Women Dying Of Heart Disease?