With PCOS, the risk for developing associated chronic diseases is higher. This risk for chronic diseases increases if PCOS remains undiagnosed.
What are some of the Chronic Diseases associated with PCOS?
Coronary Heart Disease
Risk for Endometrial Cancer
Each of these chronic disease associated with PCOS is explained in detail below:
Abnormal Lipids in PCOS
Dyslipidemia is a very common metabolic condition in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are prone to suffer from high LDL levels or “bad” cholesterol, which if failed to have controlled can lead to adverse cardiovascular outcomes. Conversely, women with PCOS also tend to have lowered levels of good cholesterol, which can further augment the risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes.
As a general rule, lower LDL levels and higher HDL levels are vital to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome sufferers are prone to hyperinsulinemia, means extremely high levels of insulin the blood, which causes the liver to secrete more lipids causing a high risk for heart diseases.
Insulin Resistance in PCOS
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and insulin resistance are frequently found to co-exist, sharing a common factor. Insulin is a hormone which is produced by the pancreas, a gland in the abdomen programmed to perform several functions, one of the vital one being controlling blood glucose levels. It is secreted typically in response to high glucose levels in blood, which then under the controlled action of insulin gets absorbed within the cells and used for energy production. Women with PCOS frequently have insulin resistance, meaning the body fails to effectively response to insulin, thus loosing firm control over the blood glucose levels. 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 known as an appetite stimulant, and people with high insulin levels frequently experience craving for sugar and sweet substances, which can further lead to high glucose levels in the blood worsening diabetes and associated complications.
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.
Pre-diabetes is a condition lasting for 10-12 years; although blood glucose levels are normal, the body’s cells start progressively reducing their response to insulin, which can eventually lead to development of type-2 diabetes in future. Thus, although insulin is present it fails to maintain normal glucose level in body because body does to respond to insulin, thus, upholding high glucose levels in the blood. As PCOS is a recognized risk factor for type-2 diabetes, it further mandates for women with PCOS to follow-up on their blood sugar levels regularly.
Screening of Diabetes in PCOS
Close to half of the women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are at high risk of insulin resistance and ultimately falling prey to a type-2 diabetes mellitus which is a life-long condition, needing interventions to maintain blood glucose levels to normal and reduce the intensity of complications. Hence, as the risk is proven in PCOS women, your doctor will recommend you going for regular blood tests to keep a check on your blood sugar levels and also for your doctor to monitor for these risks and take appropriate measures if abnormalities are found.
Your doctor will be able to devise a clear judgment on your blood glucose levels based on a series of tests-fasting blood glucose to start with. The doctor will have you fast 12 hours before the test, followed by checking the blood sugar levels. The results of which if turned abnormal with higher than the normally reported levels, your doctor will recommend a second test known as the “glucose tolerance test”. This test will measure how your body is reacting to high glucose levels in the blood. To perform this test your doctor will give you a glucose drink with specific amount of sugar. Post having the drink, the sugar levels in your blood will be checked at periodic intervals, to see how long or whether your body can process sugar, in order to maintain normal levels in the blood. If the abnormally high levels sustain for the all predetermined time intervals of the test, it is indicative of insulin resistance.
Another test, glycycolated hemoglobin A1C, measures the glucose level as an average of a time period of 3 months. Ask your doctor to know more specifics about the A1C test.
Prevention of Diabetes in PCOS
Unfortunately, diabetes doesn’t have any cure but the good news is that we can take appropriate measures to prevent it from happening. First and foremost, please follow your doctor’s advice with regards to the same. Maintain a healthy life-style- which includes regular physical exercise, balanced diet, and mentally stress-free condition.
Exercise regularly and to know which kind of exercises may best suit your health condition, age, and your physical needs, approach your doctor and follow his recommendations. Have a balanced-low fat, low sugar diet. Maintain a stress-free state of mind, through pursuing hobbies, medication, and developing techniques to effectively manage stress.
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 at double the risk of atherosclerosis (plaque deposits in the arteries), than women without the syndrome, according to a new study. It severely raises the risk for coronary heart disease and stroke. Numerous studies previously published have shown that PCOS sufferers, due to several underlying symptoms of PCOS such as high blood pressure, excessive fat around the abdomen (obesity), high levels of blood fats (lipids), and diabetes etc. are already at an all-time high risk for heart disease and stroke.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a blanket term to describe a disorder that can adversely affect the heart itself or the system of heart and blood circulation (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. High glucose levels and insulin resistance in PCOS can further contribute to or add to the already existing state of coronary heart disease.
However, to get a firm control on these symptoms and manage them effectively, a multi-dimensional approach towards this problem is necessary. 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 inner layer of the uterus/womb (endometrium), 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 grow indefinitely in size and thicken, leading to abnormal growth which can lead to cancer.
Reducing Your Endometrial Cancer Risk
While PCOS can’t be prevented, it is imperative to know other risk factors that a PCOS sufferer is prone to so that appropriate measures can be taken to prevent these. Women suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome are prone to many associated chronic diseases and one among them is Endometrial cancer.
Endometrial cancer as one of the outcomes of PCOS, can be prevented by managing the symptoms effectively.Your doctor will definitely recommend you certain measures to control PCOS. You will be recommended medications to normalize your hormone levels, to control glucose levels. Also, these medications should be supplemented with healthy lifestyle measures such as weight control and healthy diet, which can help normalize your weight, which has a strong association with the reduction of endometrial cancer. Talk to your doctor to seek more information about the specific medications and follow his recommendations.
Having PCOS doesn’t mean you will certainly get endometrial cancer, however, it definitely makes you vulnerable to develop one. So it’s highly important that you take measures by maintaining healthy lifestyle, taking medications as advised, and have a healthy diet to reduce your risk of endometrial cancer. Remember Prevention is Always Better than Cure, in this case Management, as cancer can’t be cured!!!