Polycystic ovary syndrome increases risk of MI 10-fold

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are far more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and diabetes and should be helped by their GP to reduce this risk, researchers have said.

Polycystic ovaries: women with PCOS are more likely to develop MI (Photograph: SPL)
Polycystic ovaries: women with PCOS are more likely to develop MI (Photograph: SPL)

Two studies presented at the Society for Endocrinology 2012 meeting in Harrogate, north Yorkshire, last week showed that MI is 10 times more common among middle-aged women with PCOS than those without the condition. They are also three times more likely than their peers to develop type 2 diabetes.

In the first study, researchers examined data from 2,353 women with PCOS over 20 years. They compared rates of cardiovascular events in this group with 432,506 women without the condition.

MI occurred in 1.9% of women with PCOS aged 45-54, compared with 0.2% in controls. Rates of angina were similar: 2.5% with PCOS versus 0.8% without.

The second study, led by Dr Aled Rees of Cardiff University, found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was 1.8-fold higher among 21,734 young women with a new diagnosis of PCOS than in women without it. Researchers found this risk was partly linked to BMI.

Mechanism remains unclear
Lead author of the first study, Dr Trevor Howlett, a consultant endocrinologist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, said the precise mechanism that causes the increased risk 'remains uncertain'.

But the findings highlight the need to consider cardiovascular risk in women with PCOS, he said. This includes promoting key changes to lifestyle, such as a healthy diet, weight control and smoking cessation.

Dr Rees said that managing weight could be an important way to reduce risk of diabetes in this patient group. 'Women given a diagnosis of PCOS can be reassured that their higher risk of diabetes can be at least partly reduced through maintaining a healthy weight, which can also help with the symptoms of PCOS,' he said.

'Our research indicates that close monitoring of PCOS patients who have difficulty managing their weight could help to catch the development of diabetes early.'

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