Diet, lifestyle, other tips critical in preventing and managing PCOS | Health - Hindustan Times

Diet, lifestyle, other tips critical in preventing and managing PCOS

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 17, 2024 04:20 PM IST

Given the complexity of PCOS, prevention focuses on managing risk factors. Here are diet, lifestyle and other essential tips to prevent and manage PCOS

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a prevalent health condition impacting women in their reproductive years (15-49 years), with a reported global prevalence ranging from 4% to 20% (affecting approximately 8 to 40 crore women worldwide). In India, the prevalence is notably high, reportedly ranging from 3.7% to 22.5% (impacting about 1.3 to 7.9 crore women).

Diet, lifestyle, other tips critical in preventing and managing PCOS (Photo by Freepik)
Diet, lifestyle, other tips critical in preventing and managing PCOS (Photo by Freepik)

In fact, a recent Gynoveda's survey with 3 lakh Indian women aged 18-45 reveals 70% face menstrual health issues, notably PCOS, significantly impacting fertility and quality of life. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ruchita Singh, Gynaecologist at HCL Healthcare, shared, “Characterised by hormonal imbalances, irregular menstrual cycles and ovarian cysts, PCOS poses significant risks, potentially leading to infertility, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, making it a major health concern for women globally. OZiva's nationwide survey for PCOS month found that 65% of Indian women are unaware of PCOS symptoms, highlighting the need for increased awareness.”

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Understanding the Risk Factors

While the exact cause of PCOS remains unclear, Dr Ruchita Singh listed several factors that increase the risk of developing this condition -

  • Genetics: A family history of PCOS can elevate your risk
  • Insulin Resistance: A key factor, insulin resistance, can lead to higher androgen levels, disrupting ovulation
  • Inflammation: Chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked to higher androgen production
  • Obesity: Excess weight can exacerbate insulin resistance and inflammation, contributing to PCOS

Know More About the Symptoms

According to Dr Ruchita Singh, recognising the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is crucial for early intervention and management and these symptoms generally appear in late adolescence or early adulthood. The symptoms include:

  • Irregular or completely absent menstrual periods
  • Difficulties in conceiving due to irregular or absent ovulation
  • Excessive hair growth, known as hirsutism, often on the face, chest, back or buttocks
  • Unusual weight gain
  • Thinning of scalp hair
  • Oily skin or acne

The health expert revealed, “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to various long-term health complications, including an elevated risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Additionally, PCOS is associated with an increased likelihood of developing certain types of cancer, such as ovarian and breast cancer. Given these potential risks, it's crucial for individuals who suspect they may have PCOS to seek medical advice. Early diagnosis and a comprehensive treatment strategy can significantly mitigate these risks and improve overall health outcomes.”

Prevention Strategies

Dr Ruchita Singh asserted that given the complexity of PCOS, prevention focuses on managing risk factors -

  • Healthy Diet and Regular Exercise: A balanced diet and regular physical activity can help manage weight, reduce insulin resistance, and improve hormonal balance.
  • Regular Check-ups: Early detection through regular medical check-ups can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.
  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can affect hormonal balance. Practices like yoga, meditation, and adequate sleep can be beneficial.

Lifestyle Changes: A Cornerstone of Prevention

Dr Ruchita Singh highlighted that adopting a healthy lifestyle is critical in preventing and managing PCOS -

  • Balanced Nutrition: Focus on a diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, and vegetables. Reducing intake of processed foods and sugars can also help manage insulin levels.
  • Regular Physical Activity: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
  • Weight Management: Even a modest weight loss of 5-10% can improve PCOS symptoms.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking makes PCOS worse by increasing health issues like metabolic problems and hormone imbalances. Quitting smoking can really help improve your health and ease PCOS symptoms.
  • Avoiding Toxins: Minimize exposure to endocrine disruptors found in certain plastics and personal care products.

Medical Interventions

In some cases, Dr Ruchita Singh explained that medical interventions might be necessary -

  • Medications: Birth control pills can regulate menstrual cycles and reduce androgen levels. Medications like Metformin can also help manage insulin resistance.
  • Regular Screenings: Regular screenings for diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure are essential.

Preventing PCOS requires a multifaceted approach, focusing on lifestyle changes, regular medical check-ups and awareness. By understanding the risk factors and adopting preventive measures, women can significantly reduce their risk of developing PCOS and its associated complications.

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