One of the most common health disorders that we get to see in young women in their childbearing age is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS. A hormonal imbalance condition, it is usually characterized by visible symptoms like irregular menstrual cycle, abnormal or excessive hair growth on the face, chest or abdomen, acne on the face and higher testosterone levels and polycystic ovaries in the medical tests. PCOS has also known to affect the chances of pregnancy and metabolic health, especially blood sugar levels. Women with PCOS are also known to be a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer, anxiety or depression, cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
Although it is not possible to entirely prevent or cure PCOS since most of the times it is caused genetically, it can be managed and treated with healthy lifestyle changes and nutritious diet. Poor lifestyle choices such as stress, lack of exercise and sleep, unhealthy food habits, obesity, metabolic disorders, chronic inflammation and poor immune system are also significant risk factors for developing PCOS.
Many women are advised to take oral contraceptive pills to regulate their periods and reduce noticeable symptoms such as acne and hair growth. In some cases, diabetic medication is also advised for women with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. However, with significant changes in lifestyle, PCOS and the associated disorders can be managed better.
Eat a balanced and healthy diet: An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended for women with PCOS. Higher levels of inflammation in the body lead to hormonal imbalance and a diet loaded with fruits and vegetables, moderate and evenly spread carbohydrates throughout the day, omega-3 fats such as fish, nuts and seeds, low-GI grains will help keep blood sugar levels and weight in control. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water to stay hydrated and limit your alcohol intake. Plan a diet that provides adequate amounts of nutrients, keep your weight in control and help you stay energized throughout the day.
Exercise & meditate regularly: While you must be reading about calorie deficit is the only way to reduce those extra kilos, it does not mean that you go hungry and eat only one meal a day. To maintain healthy body weight, balanced nutrition coupled with regular exercising is important, more so when you have PCOS. Due to the high testosterone levels, there is a tendency to build muscle easily among women with PCOS. It is easy to burn calories effectively because the metabolic rate is increased due to muscle mass, thus helping in better usage of glucose in the body. Start with simple fitness plans where you walk while you talk on the phone, ditch the elevators and climb up the stairs, walk around the room after your meals or go for a short walk post-dinner. Include weight training sessions at least twice during the week in your exercise program. Consult your fitness trainer and plan your cardio and weight training exercises to help you achieve overall fitness. Meditate and do yoga during the morning hours before you start your day to help you stay relaxed. Get a fitness tracker gadget to monitor your step count and help stick to your schedule.
Get adequate sleep: Sleep is considered the third pillar of lifestyle changes, next to a healthy diet and exercise. The lack of it is known to affect the health of a person significantly. Inadequate hours of sleep, disturbed or obstructive sleep does not let your body and mind heal and get rejuvenated properly. It is also linked to difficulty in losing weight and consumption of a higher amount of carbohydrates to fuel the body and keep fatigued at bay. Experts suggest that an adult must sleep for at least 6-8 hours a day. Given the stressful work hours, include sleep as part of your daily routine and try to maintain the same sleep and wake hours every day. Stay away from gadgets and blue lights before sleep. Consult a doctor if you have trouble falling asleep or suffer from insomnia.
Unfriend stress: The one thing that is a constant in all our lives today is stress that not only affects our mental health but also increases the risk of developing other lifestyle disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. It is necessary to manage stress effectively so that the cortisol and insulin levels in the body stay in control. Make time to walk regularly, meditate and practise yoga daily. Maintain a journal to highlight factors that cause stress, anxiety and depression. Develop a hobby that relaxes your mind and takes away stressful thoughts. Consult a therapist to help you draw a mindful stress management therapy to help you deal with stress better.
Healthy weight management: One of the most critical challenges that a woman with PCOS face is to maintain a healthy weight. Due to insulin surge, women tend to eat more unhealthy carbs and fat, leading to an unexplained gain in overall weight. Women with PCOS must be careful not to follow any fad diets that poses difficulty in maintaining a healthy weight range in the long run. Consult a certified dietician to help formulate a diet that suits your work life, do not keep you hungry and evenly distributes carbohydrates in moderate amount.
It is important to keep in mind that PCOS, when left untreated, can cause infertility which can have adverse effects on a woman’s mental well-being, causing stress, low self-esteem and marital problems. Hence, PCOS must always be considered as a holistic problem and must be treated accordingly. Once identified, allow your mind and body to adjust with the condition and modify your lifestyle habits for lifelong changes. Make changes in your lifestyle choices, eat healthy and reduce weight to keep PCOS symptoms at bay. Exercise and meditate to feel relaxed and rejuvenated so that your body, immune system and mind can take proper care of you.
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