Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Linked to Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease


An analysis of more than 60k women suggests those with polycystic ovary syndrome were 19% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease.

Clare Oliver-Williams, PhD

Clare Oliver-Williams, PhD

New research from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom has linked a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome to an increase in risk of cardiovascular disease.

An analysis of more than 60,000 women from a Danish health registry, results of the study suggested the condition, which is common among women in their 30s and 40s, was associated with a 19% increase in risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

"Heart health appears to be a particular problem for young women with PCOS,” said Clare Oliver-Williams, PhD, MPhil, a junior research fellow in the Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit of the University of Cambridge, in a release. “This may be because they are more likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure and diabetes compared to their peers.”

With previous studies establishing a link between presence of polycystic ovary syndrome and increased risk of cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity and hypertension, Oliver-Williams and a team of investigators sought to determine the specific risk of cardiovascular disease associated with polycystic ovary syndrome in age-adjusted analyses. With this in mind, they designed their study using data from women in the Danish National assisted reproductive technology-Couple II Cohort for a time frame ranging from 1994-2015.

From the registry, investigators identified a cohort of 60,574 women for inclusion in their study. Of these women, 6149 (10.2%) had polycystic ovary syndrome. The median follow-up range of the study population was 8.9 years and 2925 (4.8%) developed cardiovascular disease.

For the purpose of the analysis, investigators used ICD-10 codes to identify incident cardiovascular disease. Additionally, investigators noted the 2 models were used to calculate hazard ratio estimates for cardiovascular disease according to age.

The first model adjusted for age and the second model adjusted for age, year of first assisted reproductive technology treatment, baseline parity, gestational diabetes, relationship status, and education.Of note, specific age groups included in the analyses were defined as less than 30 years, 30-34 years, 35-39 years, 40-49 years, and 50 years and more.Investigators pointed out women with polycystic ovary syndrome were younger, more likely to develop gestational diabetes, and less likely to be single than the overall study cohort.

Results of the investigators’ age-adjusted analysis indicated women with polycystic ovary syndrome were at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease when compared to those without polycystic ovary syndrome (HR 1.20; 95% CI, 1.08–1.34). In further adjusted analyses, results indicated these women were at a 19% greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease (aHR 1.19, 95% CI 1.07–1.33).

Investigators highlighted results of the analyses also indicated there was no evidence of increased cardiovascular risk for women with polycystic ovary syndrome after the age of 50 years. In the aforementioned sensitivity analysis, adjustment for BMI, smoking, and alcohol yielded results indicating an increased risk of cardiovascular disease among women with polycystic ovary syndrome (HR, 1.49; 95% CI, 1.04-2.06).

In the aforementioned release, investigators noted the impact modifiable risk factors can have on the development of cardiovascular disease in these patient populations.

"Polycystic ovary syndrome isn't a life sentence - there are many ways to stay heart healthy," added Oliver-Williams. "Small changes add up, like eating more fruits and vegetables and doing more exercise."

This study, “Risk of cardiovascular disease for women with polycystic ovary syndrome: results from a national Danish registry cohort study,” was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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