By Mahalia Freed ND
This article highlights a common women’s health concern seen in my practice. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, affects not only reproductive health and fertility, but also cardiovascular health.
Definition and Clinical Consequences
Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a label referring to a complex and broad health picture. PCOS is diagnosed by presence of two of the following three things: (i) irregular ovulation or absence of ovulation, (ii) clinical and/or biochemical signs of high testosterone, and/or (iii) polycystic ovaries seen on ultrasound. While presentation varies, the most common clinical manifestations are infertility, male pattern hair growth, obesity, and absent or infrequent menses. However, these concerns represent only the tip of the iceberg with respect to the PCOS picture. Less obvious consequence of PCOS lie below the surface. Women and transgendered men who have PCOS are at risk for hypertension, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, type II diabetes, and abnormalities in blood lipids such as elevated triglycerides and oxidized cholesterol. Additional complications include increased risk of endometrial (uterine) cancer, an altered (increased) stress response, and difficulty maintaining or attaining desired body weight compared to people who do not have PCOS. Finally, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.