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PCOS and Atherosclerosis: Are You at Risk?


Updated August 20, 2009

Question: PCOS and Atherosclerosis: Are You at Risk?

PCOS and atherosclerosis are known to be linked; in fact many women with PCOS develop atherosclerosis later in life. Atherosclerosis is the formation of fatty plaques on the interior walls of arteries. This is typically caused by a build up of cholesterol (LDL, or the "bad" cholesterol) in the body, preventing the liver from properly dealing with the excess and causing the cholesterol to stay in the blood. Over time, these fatty plaques can harden. Pieces can break off and migrate throughout the body in the bloodstream, blocking blood flow, causing a stroke or heart attack.

The insulin resistance associated with PCOS also causes issues with weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. All of those factors can cause higher amounts of circulating cholesterol, increasing a woman’s risk for developing atherosclerosis later in life. For this reason, a woman with PCOS should be vigilant in maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits and getting regular health check-ups and screenings.


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

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