Statistics show that around 5 million American women have PCOS and it increases as obesity rates also rise in the United States. About 68% of all adults in the United States are now overweight and at the same time this increases in children which leads to more women developing PCOS in the future.
It is also a common cause of infertility and other diseases. What are the steps that we can take to prevent getting PCOS? Let’s first understand the basics.
What is PCOS?
PCOS or also known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is the most common ovarian function disorder that affects a woman’s fertility. The ovaries produce an abnormal amount of androgens which are male sex hormones that are usually present in women in small amounts. Polycystic means there are numerous small cysts that form in the ovaries. Though there are women who develop this disorder without having cysts while other women develop cysts without the disorder.
Hormones involved in controlling periods and reproduction are produced in abnormal proportions in women with PCOS. The imbalance of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone prevents the follicles in the ovary from developing properly. This results in follicles remaining small and not mature enough to release an egg. Consequently, a string of small follicles, or cysts form on the ovary.
Ovaries are designed to release an egg each month. If it doesn’t get fertilized, it gets shed in the menstrual cycle. A woman can get PCOS regardless of her reproductive ability. It can affect children as young as 8 years old and up through women in menopause.
CAUSES, SIGNS, AND SYMPTOMS
As stated by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, PCOS is having any two of the following signs and symptoms:
- Oligo-ovulation (Irregular ovulation) or anovulation (complete lack of ovulation)
- High androgen or male hormone levels
- Polycystic ovaries, having many small cysts on the ovaries and 10 or more follicles wherein normal ovaries only have five or six follicles.
The specific cause of PCOS is uncertain, but particular conditions show women are developing PCOS. Being overweight before puberty increases male androgen levels. High insulin levels trigger the production of male hormones. Also, family history and genetics is a factors. If your mother or sister has PCOS or types 2 diabetes you are more likely to develop PCOS.
Symptoms are different for every woman. But here are the most common symptoms:
- Weight gain, primarily around the tummy.
- Infertility. When ovulation completely stops or occurs irregularly, making it more difficult for women with PCOS to get pregnant. They also have a greater risk of pregnancy complications once they are pregnant.
- Oily skin with acne. High male hormone levels can lead to acne on your face, chest or back. The skin’s sebaceous glands are stimulated to overproduce sebum that triggers acne. This would likely be worse for overweight women because the heavier you are, the more there is insulin resistance that causes high androgen levels.
- Increased hairiness in the wrong places. Some women develop hairiness on the face, chest, stomach, and back. This is again caused by excess male hormone production brought by insulin resistance.
- Thinning hair. You are also prone to losing hair on your head, also known as alopecia.
- Absent or irregular menstrual cycle. It can also be heavy or longer than normal lasting for more than a week. Still, not all women with PCOS experience this.
- Hot flashes are normally associated with menopause but they can also occur in PCOS. You may experience a rapid heartbeat, an increase in body temperature, sweaty palms, or sweating in general.
- Insulin resistance. Raised levels of glucose in the bloodstream triggers the pancreas to release insulin which allows the cells in the body to absorb glucose. Being insulin resistant, excessive amounts of glucose remain in the bloodstream because it can’t be properly absorbed by the cells. Which causes excess body fat.
- Dark or thick skin patches on the back of the neck, in the armpits, and under the breasts.
- Mood changes such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image and impact on quality of life.
How to Prevent PCOS
There is no proven way to prevent PCOS but there are ways that you could do to reduce symptoms and help with your overall health to minimize the chances of getting PCOS. Here are some of the steps that you could take:
- Maintain a healthy weight. This can help reduce insulin and androgen levels and can restore ovulation.
- Lessen carbohydrates. High-carbohydrate diets might increase insulin levels. These are white bread, muffins, sugary snacks, and drinks. And all highly processed foods. Opt for complex carbohydrates that can raise your blood sugar levels more slowly.
- Exercise. This will help lower your blood sugar levels. It can prevent insulin resistance and help keep your weight under control and avoid diabetes. Experts agree that at least 150 minutes per week of exercise is ideal.
- High fiber foods. This can help fight insulin resistance by slowing down digestion and reducing blood sugar levels. Examples of these are broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, red leaf lettuce, arugula, green and red peppers, beans and lentils, almonds, berries, and sweet potatoes.
- Belta Folic Acid. Taking folic acid helps support a healthy balance of hormones that regulates your menstrual cycle. This can help infertility in women with PCOS and help the ovaries to release eggs normally. Studies also show that folate has beneficial effects on metabolic profiles in women with PCOS. It resulted in better glucose metabolism and better cholesterol lab values. Folic acid impacts several aspects of the pregnancy process, affecting ovarian function, implementation, and the development of embryos.
PCOS is a very common hormonal problem in women. It makes it difficult for women to ovulate, have a lot of small cysts on the ovaries, and experience frustrating symptoms. It could also lead to some other serious cases like a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and endometrial cancer.
There are certain steps that you could follow to prevent or minimize the probability of getting PCOS. If you experience some of the stated symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.