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Living with PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that can affect your hormones, ovaries, physical health and emotional well-being in a lot of different ways.

If you have PCOS, know you are not alone. We share practical ways to help you feel better and live a healthier life.

Overview of PCOS

The exact cause is unknown, but we do know that PCOS symptoms may be different from person to person. This is because PCOS can affect people with ovaries in many different ways.

Here are some things people with PCOS might face:

  • Irregular menstrual cycles: PCOS can affect the timing of your menstrual cycle, making it hard to know when your next period will happen.
  • Fertility issues: Some people with PCOS might have trouble getting pregnant.
  • Excess hair growth: High levels of androgen (male) hormones can cause excessive hair growth on the face, chest or back.
  • Acne and skin issues: Hormonal imbalances can cause acne and other skin problems like dark patches and skin tags.
  • Weight gain: Although not all, many people with PCOS struggle with their weight because of issues with insulin resistance or high blood sugar levels.
  • Emotional well-being: PCOS can also affect your emotional health, causing mood swings, anxiety and depression.

How to live healthy with PCOS

1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Weight and PCOS often work together. PCOS can make you gain weight and being overweight can make your PCOS worse.

It’s important to manage your weight by eating well and staying active. Even losing just 5% of your body weight can improve symptoms and help regulate your hormones. It can also help lower your risk for related health conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

While you can't control everything about PCOS, you can take charge of creating a healthy diet and lifestyle to help yourself feel better.

Tips for a healthy diet

A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods from all food groups, including whole-grain carbohydrates (carbs). Here are some healthy eating tips to follow:

  • Eat three balanced meals a day: Focus on multiple food groups.
  • Increase your fiber: Eat beans, lentils, broccoli, cauliflower, nuts and berries.
  • Fight inflammation (swelling): Eat tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, berries and oily fish like salmon.
  • Limit processed foods: Avoid white bread, prepackaged snacks, fast food and sugary desserts.
  • Go whole grain: Opt for 100% whole grain bread, pasta, rice and couscous. Explore new grains like quinoa, barley and more.
  • Use healthy fats: Try olive oil and avocados.
  • Spice it up: Use spices with known health benefits, like turmeric and cinnamon.
  • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated is important. Avoid high-calorie or sugary drinks. Keep alcohol to a minimum.
  • Ask for help: Work with a registered dietitian to find the best diet plan for you.

Tips for getting active

Physical activity can lessen your PCOS symptoms, lower your risk for other health issues, increase energy, help manage weight and lower stress levels. Any kind of regular exercise helps, but here are some tips to help you:

  • Aim for 30 minutes a day: Try to be active 30 minutes a day, at least three times a week.
  • Engage in different activities: This helps keep you motivated and interested. Try a combination of cardio and muscle-strengthening exercises.
  • Practice stress-reducing exercises: Yoga, meditation and deep breathing can help your emotional well-being.
  • Move during your workday: Take regular breaks to stand and walk around your office or home office.
  • Ask for help: Get advice from a fitness expert on the best exercises to reach your goals.

2. Treat skin problems as they come

Extra body hair, thinning hair, dark skin patches and acne can impact your self-esteem and confidence. If any of these symptoms bother you, talk to your health care provider or a dermatologist (skin doctor) to address your concerns.

Learn more about PCOS treatment and management.

3. Monitor your blood sugar

Some people with PCOS develop insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, weight gain and infertility. Knowing how your blood sugar levels respond to your daily habits and diet can be an important tool in avoiding long-term health problems.

Talk with your provider about ways to monitor your blood sugar, including A1c or glucose tests and/or wearing a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to track your blood sugar throughout the day. CGMs can also show you how specific foods affect you so you can change your diet as needed.

4. Focus on restful sleep

People with PCOS are more likely to suffer from several sleep issues like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. Lack of sleep can lead to several health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Sleep is an important part of health and wellness. Here are some suggestions that may help with more restful sleep:

  • Have a set time for sleeping and waking up.
  • Prioritize your sleep over work or screen time.
  • Establish a bedtime routine to relax.
  • Turn off all electronics and put them away from the area where you sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is completely dark when you go to sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcoholic drinks before bedtime.
  • Talk to your health care provider if your sleep problems continue.

5. Seek support

Keep up with regular checkups with your health care team to monitor your PCOS and make any necessary changes to your treatment plan.

If you find it hard to live with PCOS, you aren’t alone. Talk to your provider or find a support group or licensed behavioral health specialist.

Living with PCOS can be challenging sometimes, but with the right information, support and lifestyle changes, you can manage your symptoms and lead a healthy life.

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Schedule an appointment

If you have PCOS or other health concerns, don’t wait. Schedule an appointment with one of our Banner Health specialists. We’re here to provide expert guidance and treatment options tailored to your needs.