Study shows increased risk of heart disease in women
6 July 2003
Heart Disease Weekly
Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a condition that affects nearly 10% of reproductive-aged women, are at an increased risk for developing atherosclerosis, a disease that causes a buildup of plaque in the arteries and can lead to heart disease. This new study is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).
Previous research has linked PCOS, which is one of the most common causes of infertility in reproductive aged women, with multiple risk factors for coronary heart disease, including diabetes, obesity and hypertension. However, until now, neither premature coronary atherosclerosis (plaque) nor increased cardiovascular mortality have been conclusively linked to PCOS in a clinical study.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic hypothesized that atherosclerosis is accelerated in women with PCOS. To prove this theory, they measured coronary artery calcium, which is a known marker for plaque, in premenopausal women (ages 30 to 45) who suffered from PCOS. The results were then compared with age and weight matched volunteers who did not suffer from PCOS as well as community-dwelling women of similar age from a coronary calcium database.
“We found that calcified plaque was much more common in women with PCOS compared with the controls and community-dwelling women,” said Dr. Lorraine Fitzpatrick, the lead investigator in the study and an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic.
Thirty-nine percent of PCOS women had coronary calcium, while only 21% of the controls and about 10% of the community women had calcified plaque. The researchers also note that PCOS women had significantly higher levels of LDL cholesterol and testosterone levels than the other two groups. Additionally, both the PCOS and control women were obese and had higher body mass index than the community-dwelling women.
“Based on our findings, coronary heart disease is more common in women with PCOS than in obese and non-obese women of the same age,” noted Dr. Rose Christian, the lead author on the study. “Obese women with PCOS are at particularly increased risk for developing coronary heart disease. Our findings suggest that women with PCOS should be screened regularly for heart disease risk factors from the time of their initial diagnosis.”
This article was prepared by Heart Disease Weekly editors from staff and other reports.