PCOS and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know
Heart disease is the number one killer of women. It kills about 1 woman every 60 seconds. Having PCOS increases your risk of heart disease. This is because PCOS is a metabolic disease. February is American Heart Health Month as well as the 5thAnnual #Heart4PCOS Campaign to spread awareness of awareness of PCOS and heart disease. The good news is that there are many things you do to decease your risk of heart disease. This blog post is not meant to scare you, but to make you aware! I’d like to thank Ashley Levinson, PCOS advocate and PCOS patient for writing much of this guest blog post. And stay tuned for my next blog post on my Top Lifestyle & Nutrition Tips to Decrease Risk of Heart Disease.
Scary stats on PCOS and heart disease
If you have PCOS, you know all too well about some of the symptoms including weight gain, carb cravings, mood disorders, sleep disturbances, hair loss or growth, acne, to name a few. But I bet you weren’t aware of the increased risk of heart disease. If you have PCOS, here are some stats:
- Seven times higher risk of cardiovascular disease and four times higher risk of stroke
- Increased risk to develop high blood pressure, lipid disorders and coronary artery disease
- Up to 40% of PCOS patients as young as age 30-45 may have coronary calcification (a warning of heart attack risk)
- Researchers have discovered that the carotid artery, which is located in the neck, is thicker in women with PCOS equaling a higher heart disease risk
- The risk for heart disease is two times higher
- 50% of patients with PCOS become diabetic by age 40 – which is a a risk factor for heart disease
- Patients with PCOS have a 7xs greater risk for heart attack
- Patients with PCOS have 4xs greater risk for stroke
- Patients with PCOS can develop Coronary Artery Disease as early as in their twenties.
Why the increased risk of heart disease with PCOS?
There are several likely explanations for this increase risk – many have to do with the role of insulin, excess androgens and chronic inflammation. Here are some likely explanations:
- Some key features of PCOS that can increase heart disease risks are production of excess androgens (male sex hormones) and anovulation (the failure to ovulate properly), which makes PCOS the leading cause of anovulatory infertility.
- Emerging research is also identifying the important roles of insulin receptors and chronic inflammation’s role in PCOS, which can further the risks for cardiovascular disease.
- Research has linked PCOS with multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease including; high cholesterol, irregular menstrual cycles, obesity and hypertension.
- Researchers have also found that PCOS, with its symptomatic disorders of hypertension, excessive fat tissue in and around the abdominal area, blood fat disorders (high triglycerides and low HDL), high blood pressure, hyperandrogenism (elevated levels of male hormones) and insulin resistance are all contributing factors to cardiovascular disease
- Insulin in particular tends to be a consistent risk factor with PCOS, as approximately 70% of patients develop insulin resistance. As insulin comes in contact with the interior wall of the arteries, it damages the tissue, causing the initial injury that produces plaque. Having insulin resistance and PCOS can directly cause changes in blood lipids and overall cardiovascular health that contribute to the formation of heart disease. High insulin levels from PCOS can lead to heart and blood vessel problems including:
Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
Coronary artery disease and heart attack
High blood pressure
How to decrease your risk of heart disease
The good news is that there are many things you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease.
1. The first step is awareness. Learn the facts and be your own advocate.
2. Meet with PCOS friendly doctor at least once a year to have bloodwork and vitals checked (including blood pressure). Even if you are under 40, PCOS can present heart disease risks. Women with PCOS as young as in their 20s can start developing the plaque deposits leading to cardiovascular disease. Regular checkups and sound treatment plans are therefore vital to long term health with the syndrome.
3. Ask for the appropriate blood work, including total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, non-HDL cholesterol, HbA1c (12 week average of blood sugar), CRP (inflammatory markers), and if possible, a more thorough breakdown of cholesterol called VAP testing.
4. Follow a heart healthy diet and lifestyle. Stay tuned for my tips later this week.
How to participate in #Heart4PCOS
We’d love you to take part in part in our campaign to spread awareness of PCOS on social media! Here’s how to do it:
You can post your photo on social media
1. Wear red & upload photo
2. Use #Heart4PCOS hashtag
3. Tag your family, friends and doctors!
4. Post photos between 2/1 – 2/28
Add a frame to your Facebook profile pic.
1. Click to edit your profile photo
2. Click add frame
3. Search frames #Heart4PCOS & #TurnTealtoRed
4. Save changes
Let’s keep PCOS patients hearts beating by soeaking up and ending heart disease risks for women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
I’d like to thank Ashley for contributing to this blog post!
Ashley Levinson is a PCOS Patient and has served as a patient advocate for over 20 years with a mission to advance awareness for PCOS, Chronic Illness and Women’s Health. Ashley has background in healthcare as an orthopaedic surgical first assist and certified medical assistant.
She has been an advisor, executive director, volunteer and speaker to many health organizations including serving on The patient advisory board of PCOS Challenge. Ashley has been featured in numerous blogs, newspapers and magazines and was featured on Discovery Health Channel’s Mystery Diagnosis. The10! Show and Fox News. Ashley has received multiple awards for her work including her most recent- WEGO Health Awards Best of Twitter 2018
I’d highly recommend you follow her on social media @PCOSGurl
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.