PCOS and Heart Health

PCOS increases multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease. And since February is Heart Health Month, this is the perfect time to go over what that means.

The full story is a bit convoluted and we’re still piecing everything together.

The short story?

Well, there is a link between PCOS and genetics and epigenetics (how your genes are expressed based on in utero (in the womb) and environmental factors.

There’s insulin resistance in a high percentage of people with PCOS (some of this is also (epi(genetic)).

There’s elevated androgens (like testosterone and DHEA)… you guessed it: some of this (epi(genetic)).

All of the above can contribute to generalized inflammation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), changes in cholesterol metabolism, cortisol dysregulation, mood disorders, and erratic hormone production. Aaand, all of these are independent risk factors for heart disease.

I realize that I just painted a pretty bleak picture – sorry! It’s not all doom and gloom, though!

There are things we can do to support heart health.

Some of it will be individual to you and should be undertaken with the help of a healthcare professional. BUT there’s lots of things that are fairly foundational:

  • Plentiful plants
    • Fibre only comes from plants
    • Fruits and veggies offer vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre
    • Whole grains offer vitamins, fibre, and carbs required for healthy hormones and your gut
  • Adequate protein
    • Needed for muscle and bone
    • Helps with blood sugar balance
    • Keeps you satiated
  • Healthy fats
    • Needed for your cells
    • (Omega-3s) needed for the last part of inflammatory processes
    • Needed for regular menstrual cycle hormone production
  • Exercise
    • Helps with overall health (think blood vessels, circulation, cognition, bone health, and mental health)
    • Improves insulin resistance
    • Cardio and resistance/strength training both have benefits
  • Sleep
    • Good quality sleep helps with everything in life
    • Sleep apnoea is commonly seen in those with PCOS and increases heart disease risk
    • Poor sleep = more inflammation, more hormonal dysregulation, less energy, poorer mental health, affects decision-making, affects what you can do in a day
  • Rest, Pleasure, Connection
    • Help with cortisol regulation and inflammation
    • Affect mood, mental health, decision-making, capacity, hormones, blood pressure, and stress perception
    • Required for life! Everyone is deserving of this!