Warning! Several PCOS symptoms also happen to be risk factors for heart disease.
Obesity, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, inflammation, and high blood pressure are common PCOS symptoms that can increase the likelihood that you will develop heart disease.
The good news?
Working out can reduce or eliminate many of these symptoms along with improving other PCOS problems like infertility, weight loss resistance, and low energy.
Here are 3 little-known facts that you need to know to protect your heart.
Exercise can protect your heart even if you do not lose weight.
Regular exercise helps all women reduce their LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol). This fact is particularly important for women living with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome since cholesterol problems are more common among us cysters.
In a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center women with PCOS were able to improve their cholesterol numbers after just 12 weeks of simple workouts on cardio machines. They did not even need to lose weight in order to see improvements in this risk factor for heart disease.
So even if you do not lose weight from exercise (or you do not need to lose weight) regular exercise will improve your cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Working out reduces inflammation.
Women with PCOS have higher levels of inflammatory markers when compared to women of a similar BMI who do not have PCOS. The connection between PCOS and systemic inflammation is not clear, but we do know that inflammation is correlated with heart disease.
Homocysteine is one of the inflammatory markers that is elevated in women with PCOS. Chronically high levels of homocysteine will increase your risk for developing cardiovascular problems like plaque build up in your arteries.
Most of the information on the web about PCOS and inflammation talks about food sensitivities and stress, but exercise (or a lack of exercise) impacts your levels of inflammation too.
In fact, this study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that PCOS women who did just 30 minutes of brisk walking each day were able to reduce their homocysteine levels significantly.
Strength training fights heart disease too!
When you hear the words heart disease and exercise I bet your thoughts immediately turn to cardio workouts.
Not so fast!
Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for heart disease and it is at the root of many other PCOS symptoms. Strength training is very effective at reducing insulin resistance in PCOS. Strength training improves insulin resistance through 3 different mechanisms:
- Muscle cells are one of the bodies main consumers of glucose. Growing more muscle cells through strength training helps keep your blood sugar at a healthy level.
- Exercise makes muscle cells more sensitive to insulin. The result? Your pancreas needs to produce less insulin to keep your metabolism running smoothly.
- A recent study found that exercise changes the expression of genes that are thought to cause PCOS-related insulin resistance.