Polycystic ovary syndrome is a problem with hormones that affects women during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44). Approximately 27% percent of women in this age group have PCOS but the majority don’t know it since they do not get clinically diagnosed.
In PCOS, many small, fluid-filled sacs grow inside the ovaries. The word “polycystic” means “many cysts.” These sacs are actually follicles, each one containing an immature egg. The eggs never mature enough to trigger ovulation. The lack of ovulation alters levels of estrogen, progesterone and other important hormones (FSH, and LH). Progesterone levels are lower than usual, while androgen levels are higher than usual. Extra male hormones disrupt the menstrual cycle, so women with PCOS get fewer periods than usual which can also lead to difficulty in getting pregnant.
PCOS isn’t a new condition. Italian physician Antonio Vallisneri first described its symptoms in 1721. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes PCOS. They believe that high levels of male hormones prevent the ovaries from producing hormones and making eggs normally.
Some women start seeing symptoms around the time of their first period. Others only discover they have PCOS after they’ve gained a lot of weight or they’ve had trouble getting pregnant.
The most common PCOS symptoms are: irregular periods, heavy bleeding, acne, weight gain, headaches.
PCOS also causes hair growth on the face and body, as well as baldness. It also contributes to long-term health problems like metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease (to name a few) if left unchecked.
Genes, insulin resistance, and inflammation have all been linked to excess androgen production.
Studies show that PCOS can likely be congenital. Also, 70% of women with PCOS have insulin resistance, meaning that their cells can’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone the pancreas produces to help the body use sugar from foods for energy. When cells can’t use insulin properly, the body’s demand for insulin increases. The pancreas makes more insulin to compensate. Extra insulin triggers the ovaries to produce more male hormones. Furthermore, Up to 80 percent of women with PCOS are overweight or have obesity. And if you didn’t know already, obesity is a major cause for insulin resistance as well, and vice versa.
Hence, it is clear that this vicious circle of obesity and insulin resistance leads to a host of life altering/threatening problems like:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- High Blood Sugar
- High Blood Pressure
- Endometrial Cancer
- Heart Disease
And many more that sound just as grim.
So how does one manage it?
Research suggests that in order to manage PCOS efficiently, a lifestyle change – especially in nutrition, exercise and body composition – is vital. This means that diet plays the most important role along with any type of exercise/physical activity including strength training to efficiently manage PCOS.
The best approach would be to improve/increase the quantity of protein in daily nutrition while reducing carbs in order to manage/lower insulin resistance along with consuming good, healthy sources of fats that also have anti-inflammatory properties.
A few studies have found that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least 3 days a week can help women with PCOS lose weight. Losing weight with exercise also improves ovulation and insulin levels.
Consequently, in terms of workouts, a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic workouts to maintain a strong and healthy body can be classified as a very sound approach. Furthermore, to improve overall physical activity, general physical activity/low intensity activities like walking can also be incorporated over and above one’s new aforementioned lifestyle changes to produce more of the necessary positive effects/benefits.
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