January 4, 2008 / 7:38 PM / 12 years ago

Ovarian disorder linked with early heart disease

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Relatively young women who are obese and who have polycystic ovarian syndrome are at increased risk of developing coronary atherosclerosis, also referred to as “hardening of the arteries,” which is unrelated to other known risk factors for heart disease, a new study shows.

“These findings underscore the need to screen and aggressively counsel and treat these women to prevent symptomatic cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Rupal Shroff and colleagues from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, conclude in their report, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormone disorder usually diagnosed in women in their 20s or 30s. The disorder is characterized by numerous cysts on enlarged ovaries that are surrounded by a thick, scarred capsule. Symptoms include irregular or no menstrual periods, excessive hair growth and infertility. However, pregnancy may be possible after medical treatment or surgery.

The researchers conducted a study involving 24 obese women, between 21 and 50 years of age, with polycystic ovarian syndrome and 24 women of the same weight and age, but did not have polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Shroff’s team detected coronary artery calcium, an indication of early stages of atherosclerosis, in 8 of 24 of the women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (33 percent) and 2 of 24 of the comparison group (8 percent). This translated to more than a five-fold increased risk in the women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, note the investigators.

They also found that the majority of women with coronary artery calcium did not have traditional heart disease risk factors. Polycystic ovarian syndrome appeared to be associated with coronary artery calcium, they suggest.

Long-term studies to follow the progression of coronary artery calcium in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome are “urgently needed,” Shroff and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, December 2007.

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