PCOS & Your Heart

It is a given that we should all strive to keep our hearts healthy, knowing that some are more prone to heart disease, thanks to genetics, than others. But what about PCOS women? What is it that causes us to be more susceptible to heart related issues than other women? It would be easy to say that we’re unhealthy to begin with, but let us remember that not all women who have PCOS are overweight, they have normal healthy BMI’s, and just by looking at them you could never tell that they suffer from PCOS. Our weight doesn’t always have to do with our heart health, I have met many healthy plus size women over the years. They have almost textbook blood pressure (I count myself in there), their cholesterol is good, they maintain a balanced  lifestyle (not diet) and workout at least three days a week. Yet…they are still at a great risk for having heart problems, amongst other things.

heart-diagram

“The women with PCOS [through a study at the University of California at San Fransisco] had a 10% higher left ventricular mass and a larger left atrial diameter. The other groups of women did not have this change in their hearts. The researchers said this is “suggestive of early adverse cardiac remodeling”.”

–Courtesy of Ovarian Cysts PCOS website (<—click there)

What does that mean? A larger atrium can spell heart failure and high blood pressure for some women. How do you know you could have this problem? It’s mostly genetic, but you will know you are suffering from an enlarged atrium by experiencing chest pains, extreme tiredness, difficulty in breathing, and abnormal heartbeat. Obesity can play a big part for some women having this issue (but note that even thinner PCOS Cysters can suffer from these symptoms as well), along with stress, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, and the list goes on.  If you are experiencing any of those symptoms please see your doctor immediately. The earlier you can catch this the quicker your treatment will be in helping you to keep the symptoms from getting worse!

But what about the left ventricular mass? How is that bad?! Having an enlarged left ventricle is a result of your heart having to work that much harder to pump blood through your body. This can be due to high blood pressure, aortic stenosis which is a narrowing of the aortic valve(this would cause your heart to work harder at pumping the blood), having a thickened heart muscle, and some prolonged intense athletic training can cause this as well. What are the symptoms? 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain, such as that after exercising
  • Heart palpitations (I admit I have had this a few times, especially when I’m not taking care of myself)
  • Dizziness or fainting

What can you do? Sounds simple but some may find it difficult in the beginning, so be sure to consult your doctor and start small. Increase your circulation with low impact exercising at first. Walking for 15 minutes will do this, once you get used to it you can increase your time and distance. I’m not a fan of the word “diet”, to me is suggests something you do for a short amount of time and stop doing once you have reached your goal. I prefer the word lifestyle, which means you never change what you are doing. It becomes a way of life for you. Now, there are several different food lifestyles to choose from, determining which one is best for you will depend on certain factors:

  • Tolerance of Carbs
  • Tolerance of Gluten
  • Tolerance of Soy
  • Tolerance of Dairy

Those are just a few off the top of my head that seem to be the four main reasons people either stick with a certain food lifestyle or stay away from one. If you’re like me, you’re going to stay away from all of the above. Doesn’t sound possible, and while I do allow myself the occasional treat, I know my limits and do my best to not exceed it. It’s not common to have an intolerance to both carbs and gluten, it’s much more common to have an intolerance to one or the other. That makes for an easier lifestyle change.

So, coupling regular exercise and proper food lifestyle you can lower your chances for an enlarged atrium and ventricle chambers. Will it get rid of it completely? I cannot say, only a specialist will be able to determine if that is the case and if so then you are doing everything that ‘s right for you 🙂 Congrats!!

What can we do to help maintain the health of our heart and reduce the chance of sudden death? We can take Magnesium, sounds simple enough.  Magnesium helps to regulate the heart rhythm (helping to stave off palpitations), prevents intense chest pain (angina), helps to control high blood pressure, and helps against insulin resistance. Women with PCOS should get their magnesium levels checked and if they are at all low your doctor may discuss with you the necessity in taking a magnesium supplement. It does help, I’ve noticed a difference in myself. My heart works properly and I have less palpitations.

I hope this has helped to shed some light on the importance of heart health for all my Cysters and didn’t sound too technical. It took me a while to figure all this out for myself and how to break it down so even I could understand it lol Please always be sure to consult your physician about all matters, I am not the expert and can only share what I have learned. Keep in mind that not all PCOS women are going to have these issues and that other factors could be the result. Take care and keep moving forward!!

 

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