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Polycystic ovarian Disease (PCOD) that affects women with reproductive and metabolic issues is receiving increased attention due to the long-term health effects that are associated with the disorder. Women with PCOD suffer various risks that may have lifetime consequences. These include:
- Infertility – PCOD causes irregularities in menstrual cycle like infrequent ovulation, which causes difficulty in conceiving and may lead to infertility.
- Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease – Insulin resistance, which occurs in most cases of PCOD, along with metabolic syndrome (also associated with PCOD) lead to heart disease and diabetes.
- Endometrial cancer – The uterine wall lining thickens in PCOD, increasing the risk of developing cancer.
- Depression and quality of life – Studies have shown that women with PCOD could be at an increased risk of clinical depression, may exhibit more emotional distress and generally have a reduced quality of life. This may be due to the fact that many PCOD symptoms are uncomfortable (obesity, infertility, hirsutism, acne) and may have a negative impact on a person’s well being.
While the symptoms of PCOD can be treated or controlled, the condition itself cannot be directly treated. All healthcare providers suggest lifestyle modifications to women dealing with PCOD. Specific lifestyle changes restore many symptoms and manifestations of PCOD and reduce the risk of developing chronic, lifelong ailments.
Weight loss/weight management
Among the causes of PCOD is insulin resistance, a condition that runs high in obese persons. Weight loss has been found to improve insulin and cholesterol levels in the body, and relieving symptoms of acne and excess hair growth. Weight loss, as small as 10-15 pounds, can help regularize menstrual cycle. A healthy weight can be determined by calculating the body mass index (BMI), which is a measure of weight in relation to height; normal BMI ranges between 19 and 25. A guided weight loss programme followed under the recommendation of a health care provider and dietician can be effective in achieving the weight loss goals and restoring metabolic health.
Dietary changes and low-calorie diet
Dietary changes may aid weight loss and regulate insulin levels.
- Limit carbohydrates, increase fibre – A low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet can increase insulin levels. A low carbohydrate diet or a diet with complex carbohydrates rich in fibre, as suggested by the healthcare provider, can control the rise of blood sugar levels in the body. This is because fibre-rich foods are digested more slowly and the consequent increase in blood sugar level from the food breakdown is gradual too.
- Increase protein intake – Protein makes the body feel fuller, avoiding the need for extra calories. Good sources of protein include milk, low fat yoghurt, chicken, fish, soy, legumes and a quarter cup of nuts or seeds.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates – Stay clear of foods like soda, cakes, ice cream, cookies, etc. and replace with whole-grain cereals and breads, whole-wheat pasta, beans, brown rice, and fruits and vegetables.
- Choose the right fat – Excess saturated and trans fat can lead to weight gain, high cholesterol and blood pressure. These can be substituted with healthy unsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils like olive oil, nuts and avocado.
Women with PCOD benefit by increasing their daily activity incorporating a regular exercise plan. Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and may treat or even prevent the incidence of insulin resistance, apart from keeping a person’s weight under control.
The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) updated its guidelines for PCOD and recommended a minimum of 150 minutes activity of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of intense activity every week or an equivalent combination of both.
Those unaccustomed to physical activity can aim for 30 minutes of exercise daily and gradually building up the duration. Physical activity can also reduce the incidence of depression linked with PCOD
Additional lifestyle factors
Modifying other habits like alcohol consumption and smoking is crucial in managing treatment of PCOD in the long-term. Stress management is also important in keeping PCOD symptoms under control.