Chronic Diseases Associated with Polycsytic Ovarian Syndrome
The earlier your PCOS is diagnosed and treated, the lower your risk of developing complications associated with PCOS. Avoiding tobacco products and participating in regular exercise can also reduce your risk of some of these comorbidities. Talk with your doctor about what PCOS means for your overall health and how you can prevent serious complications.
Below is a brief overview of diseases associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Abnormal Lipids in PCOS
Dyslipidemia is a very common metabolic abnormality in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Individuals with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are at increased risk of high levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol, which, if neglected, can have an adverse impact on cardiovascular health. Conversely, women with PCOS often also have lower levels of HDL “good” cholesterol, which is another risk factor to cardiovascular health.
As a general rule, the lower the LDL level and the greater the HDL level, the more chance there is of maintaining good cardiovascular health.
PCOS sufferers are prone to hyperinsulinemia, a condition which prompts the liver to produce high levels of the fatty blood lipid triglycerides, which is another risk factor to cardiovascular health.
Insulin Resistance in PCOS
PCOS and insulin resistance are frequently found together, which makes it important to understand this common problem. Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas, a gland in the abdomen with a lot of functions. It is typically secreted in response to a large amount of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Once produced, insulin causes glucose to be taken into the body cells to be used for energy.
Women with PCOS frequently have insulin resistance, meaning their body does not respond as quickly to insulin. The sluggish response will cause larger and larger amounts of insulin to be required before glucose is taken into the body tissues, and eventually a change in the way the body deals with sugar. Consistently high levels of glucose in the blood can lead to diabetes.
Insulin is an appetite stimulant, which is perhaps why many women with PCOS report frequent cravings for sweets and other carb rich foods. Elevated insulin levels is also believed to be a contributing factor to inflammation and other metabolic complications associated with PCOS.
Pre-Diabetes & PCOS
A condition called pre-diabetes, increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions. During this stage, which can last as long as 10 to 12 years, the body is no longer as sensitive to insulin as it may have been before.
This leads to high blood sugars after eating that do not quickly lower. Because PCOS is now recognized as a risk factor for developing diabetes, it is recommended that women with the disease be routinely screened so that insulin resistance can be found early, and treatment can be initiated earlier.
Screening of Diabetes in PCOS
As many as 30% to 40% of women may experience insulin resistance and eventually develop type 2 diabetes. Because of the associated risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity and negative health effects, your doctor may want to monitor your blood sugar and insulin levels.
The first test that may be performed is a fasting blood glucose test. The doctor will have you fast for a specific amount of time, then check you blood sugar. If the test is elevated, the doctor may want to do a second test to determine how your body processes sugar. This is known as a glucose tolerance test. The doctor will take some blood to check your blood sugar, and then give you a special drink, with a specific amount of sugar in it. Your blood sugar will then be measured at designated intervals afterward to see how long it takes for your cells to process the sugar. If the readings remain elevated longer than normal, this may indicate that you are becoming resistant to insulin.
Another test, glycycolated hemoglobin A1C, measures an average of how well your glucose has been over the previous three months. Ideal levels should be under 5.7%.
Prevention of Diabetes in PCOS
While there is no cure for diabetes, a number of steps can be taken to prevent it from happening. First, make sure to follow your doctor’s recommendation in completing the testing he suggests. Secondly, engage in a healthy lifestyle starting now. You should eat a well-balanced diet, rich in whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Avoid unnecessary fats or sugars. Some dietary supplements may help too.
Begin incorporating daily exercise according to your doctor’s recommendations. Go for a 30-minute walk each day. Increase your activity slowly as you can tolerate it. Eventually, you’ll want to add weight training to build some muscle. Use the tools on this site to help you.
Diabetes Mellitus in PCOS
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the cells of the body become resistant to insulin, an inadequate amount of insulin is made, or both. While type 2 diabetes is typically preventable or manageable through exercise and a proper diet, research shows that PCOS is a strong independent risk factor for developing diabetes.
In fact, women who experience PCOS in young adulthood are at an elevated risk for diabetes and potentially fatal heart problems later in life.
Cardiac Problems in PCOS
Women with PCOS are nearly twice as likely to suffer from atherosclerosis (plaque deposits in the arteries), than women without the syndrome, according to a new study. Atherosclerosis sharply increases the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Numerous previous studies have found that Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, with its symptomatic disorders of high blood pressure (hypertension), excessive fat tissue in and around the abdominal area, blood fat disorders (high triglycerides and low HDL), Hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of male hormones) and Insulin Resistance – put sufferers at higher risk of developing future serious, life-threatening health conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a broad term that describes any disorder that can impact the functioning of the heart muscle itself or the cardiovascular system. Conditions that contribute to heart disease include: high blood pressure, Cardiovascular Disease, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries caused by calcium deposits), atherosclerosis and more.Chronic high levels of glucose and insulin are classic symptoms of Insulin Resistance and PCOS.
Insulin is produced in your pancreas and released into the circulatory system where it is the key to the absorption of glucose by your cells. If your cells resist insulin, both insulin and glucose build up in your blood. Excess insulin leads to weight gain and high blood pressure. As insulin comes in contact with the interior wall of the arteries, it damages the tissue, causing the initial injury that produces plaque. Therefore, having Insulin Resistance and PCOS directly cause negitive changes in the blood lipids and overall cardiovascular health.
Recommendations for reducing heart disease risk are the same as those for reducing Insulin Resistance: decreasing insulin levels, balancing cholesterol and lowering blood pressure to either better manage the symptoms of PCOS and reverse the condition completely to minimize current symptoms. This can be done through careful food choices, exercise and weight loss in both overweight and lean individuals as well as women of normal weight.
But a multi-faceted approach is clearly necessary to address all the symptoms of these conditions. A complete system, is required to address these issues. This system should include nutraceuticals (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and botanicals formulated to address specific conditions), a realistic exercise program, nutritional guidance and a support network that will help you change unhealthy lifestyle.
Risk of Endometrial Cancer in PCOS
The risk of cancer of the endometrium, the inside lining of the uterus, is three times as high for women with PCOS as it is for other women. Irregular periods, or a lack of periods, can cause the endometrium to build up and become thick. This thickening can lead to endometrial cancer.
Reducing Your Endometrial Cancer Risk
While you can’t prevent PCOS, it’s important to know your risk for endometrial cancer and figure out what you can do to protect your health and minimize that risk. If you have PCOS, do what you can to keep other risk factors for endometrial cancer in check:
Treat your PCOS. If left untreated, hormone levels will remain abnormal and affect your whole body and your cancer risk. Seek treatment for PCOS early and regulate hormone levels. You can do this with oral contraceptives — progesterone-only pills are best to reduce endometrial cancer risk — or metformin (Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Glumetza, Fortamet, Riomet), the diabetes medication, to manage hormone production. Surgery may also be an option.
Reach and maintain a healthy body weight. Most often, women with PCOS are obese or overweight. And obesity is a known risk factor for endometrial cancer because it also increases estrogen levels. By getting regular exercise and sticking to a healthy diet, you can lose excess pounds and minimize your endometrial cancer risk, even if you have PCOS.
Avoid fat in your diet. Besides helping avoid unwanted pounds, trimming the fat from your diet can reduce endometrial cancer risk. It’s thought that fat affects the way that estrogen is metabolized and used by the body, which can also raise the chances of developing endometrial cancer.
Get regular Pap smears and pelvic exams. If you already know you’re at a greater risk for endometrial cancer because of your PCOS, it’s important to keep an eye out for early signs of cancer. Having a regular pelvic exam done by your gynecologist can help to identify endometrial cancer and begin treatment.
Having PCOS doesn’t mean you’re destined to develop endometrial cancer, but it does mean that you’re at an increased risk for the disease. So take good care of yourself by focusing on preventive care, maintaining a fit body, and living a healthy lifestyle to reduce your endometrial cancer risk.
Women with PCOS also may be at higher risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Small studies have suggested that a lack of ovulation (anovulation), as occurs with PCOS, is linked with a risk of breast cancer that is three to four times that of women without anovulation.