PCOS and Heart Health

PCOS and heart health are frequently overlooked as the syndrome has predominately focused on fertility. Now, research shows that PCOS exists past menopause and has numerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These risks include elevated triglyceride (TG) levels (the blood storage form of fat), blood pressure, C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation and oxidative stress), total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the so-called “bad” type of cholesterol), and low levels of HDL (the “good” type of cholesterol that we should have high levels of).

Studies show that as many as 70% of all women with PCOS have elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL (1,2) both of which are strong predictors of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the risk of stroke has been found to be significantly higher for women with PCOS.

PCOS and Heart Health

Whether you have abnormal cholesterol levels or not, now is the time to take measures to improve your heart by reducing your risk factors. The following are 5 of the best proven ways to help your heart.

Eat More of a Plant-Based Diet

A plant-based diet is one that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts but is limited in animal products. Plant-based foods contain important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber needed to reduce blood lipid levels, blood pressure, and insulin. These foods take longer to chew thus adding to fullness with meals.

Replacing refined carbohydrates with whole grain ones not only benefits women with PCOS by aiding in lowering insulin levels but helps to improve cholesterol levels as well. This is because lower-glycemic index foods like whole grains are rich in fiber which grabs cholesterol in the body and carries it out so it’s less likely to be absorbed. Fiber-rich foods are also more filling. Government guidelines recommend women consume 25-35 grams of fiber each day. This can easily be met by a diet that includes a variety of fruits,vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

To bring more of a plant-based diet into your life start slow. For example, make 2 meals a week without using meat or other animal products. Remember, you don’t have to eliminate meat altogether, just make it so it is less of an important staple in your everyday way of eating.

Consume Omega-3 Fatty Acids On A Regular Basis

Omega-3 fatty acids have long been known to bring down cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Foods that include omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, egg yolk, flaxseed, avocado oil, fish (especially salmon and tuna) or fish oil supplements. Omega-3’s are an essential part of the nutrition for PCOS and heart health. Eat these foods more throughout the week and you can expect to see your blood lipid levels fall toward lower and healthier levels within a few short months.

Use Phytosterols

Phytosterols (also called sterols and stanols) are cholesterol-lowering plant chemicals that can help people with PCOS and their hearts. They are so structurally similar to cholesterol that they compete for absorption in the intestine. The cholesterol that does not get absorbed is eliminated from the body.

A meta-analysis and systematic review in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that phytosterols lowered total cholesterol 7% to11% (3). Phytosterols have no taste or odor and many food manufactures are fortifying foods with them for their cholesterol-lowering effects. Some foods that are currently available that contain phytosterols include granola bars, bread, milk and yogurts, soft margarine or butters, and multi-vitamins.

If you do have high cholesterol (or a strong family history of it), consider substituting your current food selection with foods fortified with phyotsterols. Approximately two to four servings will meet the recommended amount of 2 grams of phytosterols per day.

Resveratrol for pcos

Get Checked for Sleep Apnea

The risk for sleep apnea has been found to be 10x higher women with PCOS. Sleep apnea is linked to significant cardiovascular risk factors including: insulin resistance, inflammation, high triglycerides, low HDL and high LDL cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea here. If you think you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study. Most can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Engage In Some Form Of Physical Activity Daily

Being physically inactive is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It also contributes to insulin resistance seen with PCOS. Try to make an effort to be more physically active. This does not mean having to join a gym or other structured activity. Simply adding more activity into your daily life is a great way to start. For example, parking your car further away at stores, getting off the bus or subway a few stops earlier, dancing more at home or out, walking down the hallway to talk to a co-worker instead of emailing them are all forms of physical activity.

Walking just 10 minutes a day has been shown to lower insulin and improve heart health. Try using a pedometer during the day with a goal of getting 10,000 steps in daily. If you currently engage in an exercise regiment, consider making it more challenging by adding more resistance, time, heavier weights, or trying new activities. Not only will you see improvements to your cholesterol levels, but blood pressure, insulin, and perhaps even mood and body image!

For more information on ways people with PCOS can improve their heart, visit the American Heart Association’s website at www.americanheart.org.

1. Legro RS et al. Prevalence and predictors of dyslipidemia in women with polycystic ovary
syndrome. American Journal of Medicine. 2001;111:607-613.

2. Apridonidze T et al. Prevalence and characteristics of the metabolic syndrome in women with
polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2005;90:1929-

3. Moruisi KG, Oosthuizen W, Opperman AM. Phytosterols/stanols lower cholesterol concentrations in familial hypercholesterolemic subjects: a systematic review with meta-analysis.J Am Coll Nutr. 2006 Feb;25(1):41-8.

4. Zhou Y, Wang X, Jiang Y, Ma H, Chen L, Lai C, Peng C, He C, Sun C. Association between polycystic ovary syndrome and the risk of stroke and all-cause mortality: insights from a meta-analysis. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2017 Dec;33(12):904-910.

5. Saint-Maurice PF, Graubard BI, Troiano RP, et al. Estimated Number of Deaths Prevented Through Increased Physical Activity Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. Published online January 24, 2022.

6. Sam S, Ehrmann DA. Pathogenesis and Consequences of Disordered Sleep in PCOS. Clin Med Insights Reprod Health. 2019;13:1179558119871269.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sign Up!

pcos supplements