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Women's Health

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and Weight Gain

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What can I do to lose weight if I have polycystic ovary syndrome?

Losing weight not only can help reduce your risks and make you look better -- it can also make you feel better. When you have PCOS, shedding just 10% of your body weight can bring your periods back to normal. It can also help relieve some of the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Weight loss can improve insulin sensitivity. That will reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other PCOS complications.

To lose weight, start with a visit to your doctor. The doctor will weigh you and check your waist size and body mass index. Body mass index is also called BMI, and it is the ratio of your height to your weight.

Your doctor may also prescribe medication. Several medications are approved for PCOS, including birth control pills and anti-androgen medications. The anti-androgen medications block the effects of male hormones. A few medications are used specifically to promote weight loss in women with PCOS. These include:

  • Metformin (Glucophage). Metformin is a diabetes drug that helps the body use insulin more efficiently. It also reduces testosterone production. Some research has found that it can help obese women with PCOS lose weight. 
  • Thiazolidinediones. These should be used with contraception. The drugs pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia) also help the body use insulin. In studies, these drugs improved insulin resistance. But their effect on body weight is unclear. All patients using Avandia must review and fully understand the cardiovascular risks. Research has found that Flutamide (Eulexin), an anti-androgen drug, helps obese women with PCOS lose weight. It also improves their blood sugar levels. The drug can be given alone or with metformin. 

In addition to taking medication, adding healthy habits into your lifestyle can help you keep your weight under control:

  • Eat a high-fiber, low-sugar diet. Load up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid processed and fatty foods to keep your blood sugar levels in check. If you’re having trouble eating healthy on your own, talk to your doctor or a dietitian. 
  • Eat four to six small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. This will help control your blood sugar levels. 
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day on most, if not all, days of the week. 
  • Work with your doctor to track your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 
  • If you smoke, get involved in a program that can help you quit.

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