European study finds women with PCOS 19% more likely to have heart disease

PCOS has a bad rep for messing with your menstrual cycle and your fertility. But that’s not all it can do as it can also make you prone to heart disease.
PCOS and heart health
PCOS and heart disease might go hand in hand in young women. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Team Health Shots Updated: 13 Oct 2023, 17:06 pm IST
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One of the most complicated ailments to hit women these days is polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS. Often considered to be a reproductive ailment, what many people don’t know is that PCOS can also affect your heart.

In fact, a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that women in their 30s and 40s with this common condition affecting how the ovaries work are more likely to get heart disease.

What is PCOS?
Marked by cysts or fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries, PCOS leads to irregular periods, acne, excess body hair, infertility, and/or hair loss. Women with PCOS also tend to have high levels of male hormones in their body and are more likely to be overweight or obese, have diabetes, and high blood pressure. All these happen to be risk factors for heart disease and stroke.

The European study examined whether this risky profile translates into a greater likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease—and, for the first time, whether that persists across the lifespan.

“Some PCOS symptoms are only present during the reproductive years, so it’s possible that the raised chance of heart disease might disappear later in life,” explains Dr Clare Oliver-Williams of the University of Cambridge, UK.

Women with PCOS present all the risk factor for heart disease. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

What did the study find?
The study included 60,574 women receiving treatment to help them get pregnant, such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF), from 1994 to 2015. Of those, 6,149 10.2% had PCOS. The researchers used medical records to follow the women for nine years. During that period, 2,925 (4.8%) women developed cardiovascular disease.

Overall, women with PCOS were at 19% higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than women who did not have PCOS.

The study also found that women with PCOS aged 50 and over did not have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular risk compared to their peers without PCOS. However, women in their 30s and 40s with PCOS were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those without PCOS.

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“Heart health appears to be a particular problem for young women with PCOS. This may be because they are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure and diabetes compared to their peers,” said Dr. Oliver-Williams.

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“PCOS can be a distressing condition. Not just because it can affect fertility. The physical effects can cause anxiety and depression. There’s so much pressure on young women to achieve what we’re told is the physical ideal. It takes age and time to embrace yourself and getting support from others is a vital step, so reach out if you need it,” she concluded.

(With inputs from ANI)


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