Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, affects one in 10 women. Among the commonly known side effects such as weight gain and fertility struggles, there has also been a link found between PCOS and an increased risk for developing heart disease.
Each year, around 33 percent of American women die from cardiovascular diseases, making it one of the top causes of death among women, with issues such as smoking, obesity, high alcohol consumption, poor diet and sedentary lifestyle being major contributors. However, it is also found that if a woman has PCOS, she also may have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
Risk Factors Linking PCOS with Cardiovascular Disease
If a woman has PCOS, it raises her risk of developing a variety of complications related to the heart. Generally, this is because there are higher insulin levels in women with the condition. Those elevated insulin levels can raise one’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels, specifically the triglycerides, lower their high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and lead to atherosclerosis. All of these situations can cause a heart attack or stroke.
It’s important to know the details about the risks that can come with PCOS and heart disease. They include the following:
Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension can develop without a woman even realizing it, hence why it is often called the “silent killer.” With high blood pressure, a number of problems can arise, including hardening of the arteries and plaque accumulation that may lead to atherosclerosis.
Abnormal Cholesterol Levels
Women with PCOS have a greater risk of increased levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL, which is considered the “good” cholesterol. With the condition, the body produces abnormal cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
This condition occurs when there is an excess buildup of fatty plaque in the arteries. It can damage the blood vessels and prevent the normal flow of blood in the body. With insufficient blood flow throughout the body, it can result in a lack of oxygen.
Diabetes is a serious medical condition that can also develop in women with PCOS. Over half of women with PCOS can develop Type 2 diabetes by the time they reach 40 years old.
Gestational diabetes is the type of diabetes that women develop while pregnant. A woman with PCOS has a greater risk for it, which puts not only her but the baby in jeopardy.
Reducing Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
Whether or not you have PCOS, you can take measures to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease down the line.
- Consuming a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fiber.
- Avoiding high-fat foods like red meat, butter and processed meats.
- Eat healthy fatty foods such as avocados, nuts and olive oil.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Incorporate an exercise routine into your daily life, even if you just go for 30-minute walks.
- If you smoke, try quitting immediately.
As with any health concern, always talk with your doctor about your condition and your risk factors for heart disease and be sure to get your cholesterol checked on a regular basis.
All of these things will help you to combat heart disease, help lead you toward better overall health for fertility improvements, and help you feel better in general.