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PCOS in the Black Community

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disease that affects millions of reproductive-age women all over the world; in the United States alone, around 5 million women are diagnosed with PCOS. It’s a leading cause of fertility among women and causes irregular periods, high androgen levels, acne, weight gain or difficulty with weight loss, ovarian cysts, and more. Though it’s a common condition, PCOS is largely misunderstood, and black women often get the brunt of this lack of understanding. Black women are affected by PCOS differently compared to white women, but racial and ethnic disparities in PCOS are often overlooked. Due to implicit bias and lack of awareness, black women might experience delays in diagnosis, leading to complications. 

More understanding is crucial in helping black women address their PCOS symptoms and improve their well-being. Here’s how PCOS impacts black women and how to manage the condition:

 

PCOS in Black women

PCOS affects black women disproportionately. Symptoms like insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome may be more common and severe in black women with PCOS. As such, they may also have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and fertility issues. Black women are also more likely to struggle with obesity, which can make managing symptoms more difficult. PCOS and obesity affect and exacerbate each other; insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism associated with PCOS can lead to overweight and obesity, while obesity can impact reproductive abnormalities.

Aside from the symptoms, they’re also challenged with navigating biased healthcare systems. Research on the disease is underfunded, and practitioners are unequipped with information on PCOS and how it affects women of different racial and ethnic backgrounds differently. As such, it often goes underdiagnosed in black women, which can lead to more difficulty managing the condition. Health concerns that may indicate PCOS are often dismissed instead of addressed. And even when diagnosed, they often don’t get the guidance and support needed to manage things like medication and lifestyle changes, leading to more frustration and anxiety. 

How Black women can manage PCOS


There is currently no known cure for PCOS, but the proper care and lifestyle habits can make it easier to live with. Weight management is an integral part of addressing PCOS symptoms. It can help improve insulin levels and fertility while reducing androgen levels and the risk of obesity-related diseases.  

PCOS is notorious for making weight loss difficult. As such, weight loss medication for PCOS can help address your biology and level the playing field for weight loss. Drugs like Metformin help improve the sensitivity of peripheral tissues to insulin, countering insulin resistance. It’s also relatively affordable, even without insurance. GLP-1 medications, like Saxenda and Wegovy, mimic a hormone in your gut that reduces appetite and cravings, allowing for easier weight management. These medications address both type 2 diabetes and weight loss, which is helpful for patients who struggle with both PCOS and obesity.

Along with medication, lifestyle changes can help with managing weight and PCOS symptoms. Exercise interventions are crucial for improving insulin sensitivity and promoting well-being, and finding a workout regimen you enjoy can help you stay consistent. Aerobic exercises, moderate to high-intensity workouts like HIIT (high-intensity interval training), and resistance training are beneficial for women with PCOS. You don’t have to jump into a strict workout routine right away. You can start with 15 to 30 minutes a day or do a dance routine when you come home from work. You can also incorporate movement into everyday activities. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to a nearby dining spot instead of ordering in, or jog in place instead of sitting on the couch while watching TV.

Changing your diet is also key to maintaining blood sugar levels and managing weight. Eat smaller portions of carbohydrates from whole grains and complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Low-glycemic foods that are low in carbohydrates and have a minimal effect on blood sugar can also help prevent insulin spikes while supporting weight loss. These foods include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, dairy, whole grains, and more. You might have to reduce your intake of processed foods, but that doesn’t mean managing your nutrition has to be bland. You can swap out your usual ingredients for more nutritious alternatives. You can also check out these PCOS-friendly dessert recipes for healthier versions of your favorite sweet treats!

 

For more health-related articles, visit here. 

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