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Montefiore in the News

November 8, 2022

More than half of women with PCOS develop Type 2 diabetes by age 40. Photo courtesy of What Ever Dot ID via Flickr

Every November, we mark National Diabetes Month by sharing guidance on diet, lifestyle modifications and treatments that can help people manage the condition. But less commonly discussed is the connection between diabetes and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder seen in women of reproductive age that can lead to insulin resistance and other poor health outcomes. More than half of women with PCOS develop Type 2 diabetes by age 40.

 What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, otherwise known as PCOS, is a common hormonal disorder that affects women during their childbearing years. PCOS can also cause female infertility. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that about 6 percent to 12 percent of women of reproductive age in the United States (about 5 million) suffer from PCOS.

Common PCOS symptoms include:

  • irregular menstrual cycles;
  • weight gain;
  • acne;
  • excess hair growth;
  • dark patches of skin, and
  • headaches.

Women with PCOS are often insulin resistant. This means the body is not properly using, or not responding to, the insulin the pancreas produces to control the sugar in the bloodstream, which increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Even though millions of women around the country suffer from PCOS, many people have never heard of this disease, and never receive a diagnosis, which is why it is critical to raise awareness about it, how it is connected to diabetes, and how to treat it.

It is important to take steps early on to prevent and treat PCOS. Luckily, what we eat has a great impact on this disease and this is very important for early intervention. Small changes in your diet, such as following a low-fat, plant-based diet can help reverse insulin resistance. A diet that limits carbohydrate intake can also help with insulin resistance, decreasing the insulin produced by the body. These changes in your diet can help with managing PCOS and its symptoms.

A proper diet can help you feel better physically and help your overall health. Obtaining proper medical attention and nutritional education can help manage PCOS and Type 2 diabetes. Montefiore has many resources and programs to assist. If you or someone in your family or community are facing challenges with PCOS, or with finding healthy food options, Montefiore is here to help. Here are some tips:

Make an appointment with your primary care provider or obstetrician/gynecologist and get screened for social determinants of health. Your provider can assist you with resources for food and other needs.

  • Always consult with your primary care physician before making any changes to your diet. Request a referral to a nutritionist or dietician who can help assist with meal planning.
  • See a specialist like an endocrinologist (a doctor specializing in hormone-related diseases and conditions) who can provide additional treatment options.

Visit Montefiore’s Project BRAVO food pantry located at 3058 Bainbridge Avenue, Bronx, NY 10467 on Mondays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m., or on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.

Naomi Pemberton, MPA, CPC is senior project manager of social determinants of health at the Office of Community and Population Health for Montefiore Health System.