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PCOS and Heart Disease


Updated July 22, 2009

Women and Heart Disease

Many women believe that cancer is the leading cause of death for their particular population. However, the risk of cardiovascular disease is much greater for American women then cancer, as almost 33% of women will die of heart disease. Several factors can put a woman at an increased risk for cardiac disease including obesity, poor diet, lack of good exercise habits, smoking and increased alcohol intake.

Risk Factors: PCOS

Having PCOS increases a woman’s chances of getting heart-related complications. This is due to the high insulin levels that have been associated with PCOS and are known to increase one’s risk for high cholesterol, blood pressure, and atherosclerosis. These conditions can increase your risk for a heart attack and stroke.


Blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood moving through the blood vessels. When elevated, blood pressure can indicate that the heart is moving harder to circulate the blood. This can be caused by a hardening of the blood vessel walls from plaque accumulation or atherosclerosis. Insulin resistance and obesity are also linked to elevated blood pressure.

High Cholesterol

Having PCOS can put you at risk for high cholesterol and triglycerides and low levels of HDL (high density lipoproteins, or “good” cholesterol). Some cholesterol is a result of poor dietary intake, though our bodies also contribute significantly to ones cholesterol levels. Elevated levels of cholesterol is also one of the identifying factors of metabolic syndrome and can lead to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.


Atherosclerosis is the build up of hard, fatty plaques in the arteries. This can damage the blood vessels and impede normal blood flow throughout the body. Without sufficient blood flow transporting nutrients and oxygen to the extremities and essential body organs, severe damage can occur.

Reducing the Risk

So what can you do to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life? The most important thing you can do is to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Even if you are naturally slim, it is important to cut your intake of fats and sugar, and keep up with a daily exercise routine. It is also extremely important to have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked routinely.



McCance, Kathryn L. and Huether, Sue E. Understanding Pathophysiology. Mosby. St. Louis MO, 2003.

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