When it comes to PCOS it is important to be assessed for your risk of cardiovascular disease. We know women with PCOS have 2x the risk of developing heart disease. First thing to consider is doing some lab work to assess for your risk.
Yearly lab work check-ups are important when it comes to assess for cardiovascular disease risk.
Below are the top 3 labs to consider when it comes to PCOS and Heart Health.
1. Cholesterol Panel
The cholesterol panel can give us very good insight into long term cardiovascular risk assessment. Checking the lipid panel will give us key markers such as triglycerides, HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol).
When it comes to cardiovascular disease, looking at bad cholesterol, our LDL is important. LDL can readily stick to the artery walls and may cause plaque formation. This process is called atherosclerosis. This is especially bad as it may eventually restrict blood flow in our arteries.
Ways to reduce high levels of cholesterol include following a diet that mimics the Mediterranean diet as it is rich in healthy oils such as olive oil, vegetables and fruits, nuts and fish. The second way is to exercise, especially aerobic exercise as it can increase HDL (good cholesterol) and help us to lose weight – which will eventually lower LDL.
This is a screening marker for Diabetes. It will tell us if you are at risk for diabetes, prediabetes or have diabetes. HbA1c is essentially glucose bound to hemoglobulin. Hemoglobulin is a protein in red blood cells that will carry oxygen throughout the body. HbA1c tells us the direct amount of glucose in the blood.
Since red blood cells can live up to 4 months, this marker gives us a long term view on how much sugar there is in the blood stream over the last few months.
Other tests to consider with a HbA1c include fasting glucose, fasting insulin and an insulin glucose challenge test.
3. High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein
This marker is a protein that gives us an idea of global inflammation in the body. The marker helps us to determine the patients’ risk for heart disease and stroke. In fact, >3mg/L of HS-CRP can indicate an elevated risk for heart attack and stroke even in healthy individuals1.
Inflammation that is present can be either acute or chronic inflammation. Acute inflammation is when you may suffer from an injury or you are sick from a cold or flu. Chronic inflammation is considered low steady inflammation that isn’t caused by a single event. It can be constant injury to the inner area of the artery walls and is typically due to the way you live your life in terms of food choices, stress, sleep etc. Poor food choices can lead to higher cholesterol, blood sugar and high blood pressure.
We often see that insulin resistance can be one of the causes of high HS-CRP and in PCOS we often see insulin resistance the cause. Therefore, balancing blood sugar and insulin can help reduce HS-CRP levels. Ways to balance blood sugar and insulin are through you diet, supplementation and exercise.
- Ndumele, C. E., Pradhan, A. D., & Ridker, P. M. (2006). Interrelationships between inflammation, C-reactive protein, and insulin resistance. Journal of the Cardiometabolic Syndrome, 1(3), 107–196. https://doi.org/10.1111/J.1559-4564.2006.05538.X
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