Polycystic ovarian syndrome, commonly abbreviated as PCOS, is a hormone imbalance disorder in which lots of immature follicles (cells) collect in the ovaries.

Regardless of the name, not all women with PCOS actually have cysts. But they do have a lot of the same symptoms like irregular periods and difficulty getting pregnant.

Many women with PCOS also have the same co-morbidities (health conditions that often occur together). Previous research has established that women with PCOS are more likely to be overweight or obese, have diabetes, and have high blood pressure.

Now, a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, the peer-reviewed journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), has shown that women with PCOS are also at high risk for heart disease.

World Health Organization data show that over 116 million women worldwide (that's 3.4% of women on earth) have PCOS. In India, 20-25% of women of reproductive age may have this condition. The findings of this study would be relevant to many of these women and their families. Read on to know more:

  1. PCOS and heart disease
  2. Tips for healthy heart in PCOS
Doctors for PCOS and heart health

The study, authored by  Dr Clare Oliver-Williams of the University of Cambridge, UK, was conducted to examine whether women with PCOS have a higher chance of developing cardiovascular disease.

The study was conducted with 60,574 Scandinavian women receiving treatment to help them get pregnant, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Of those, around 10% had PCOS. The subjects were comprehensively followed for nine years. Here is what the results revealed:

  1. Women with PCOS were at 19% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who didn’t. 
  2. Women in their 30s and 40s with PCOS were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than women who didn’t.
  3. Due to insufficient dataset in those below 30 years, the results were less clear for the age group below 30.

PCOS is vastly misunderstood. A big factor contributing to it is the environment that we live in. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to developing polycystic ovarian syndrome, even without a genetic history of the same.

The first step to defeating the problem of PCOS is to become aware of the problem in depth. Apart from this, 

  • It is important to make dietary changes (read more: diet for PCOS). Doctors advise focusing on foods that are low in sugar and fats and have a low glycemic index. Lean meats like fish and poultry, high-fibre grains and a good amount of vegetables and fruits are ideal for women with PCOS.
  • Try to cut down your intake of saturated or hydrogenated fats. This includes cream, cheese, red meats, as well as processed or fried foods. The unhealthy fats present in these might lead to weight gain. They may also increase estrogen production (read more: Changes in estrogen levels)
  • Increase your physical activity. Start by going on a walk and eventually get regular exercise. It has many benefits in treating PCOS. It will help fight obesity by burning calories and building muscle mass and also decrease your insulin resistance. Exercising can also help lower cholesterol levels (read more: High cholesterol).

"Women with PCOS have been dealt a tough hand but this is about how these women play their cards. There are fantastic PCOS support groups where they can find out what has helped others with PCOS lose weight, get more exercise, and have a healthier diet,” said Dr Williams.

Even though women with PCOS are at higher risk of developing heart diseases, making dietary and lifestyle changes can go a long way in maintaining one’s cardiac health.

It is crucial to get constant health check-ups and get support where needed, physical as well as mental support. 

Dr. Vrinda Khemani

Dr. Vrinda Khemani

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
6 Years of Experience

Dr Megha Apsingekar

Dr Megha Apsingekar

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
4 Years of Experience

Dr. Dyuti Navadia

Dr. Dyuti Navadia

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
1 Years of Experience

Dr. Sheetal Aggarwal

Dr. Sheetal Aggarwal

Obstetrics & Gynaecology
15 Years of Experience

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References

  1. Oliver-Williams C, Vassard D, Pinborg A, Schmidt L. Risk of cardiovascular disease for women with polycystic ovary syndrome: results from a national Danish registry cohort study Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2020 Aug 2.
  2. Jayasena CN, Franks S. The Management of Patients With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Oct;10(10):624-636.
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