About 7 million U.S. women have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which results when excess insulin increases the production of androgens (male hormones). It’s the most common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age—as many as one in 10 will develop PCOS—yet shockingly, it’s estimated that more than half don’t know they have it. “I see women regularly who’ve remained undiagnosed their entire lives,” says Fiona McCulloch, ND, a naturopathic doctor in Toronto and author of the forthcoming book 8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS. That’s scary, considering that PCOS is linked to diabetes (one recent study from Monash University in Australia showed that women with PCOS—even if they’re young and not overweight—are five times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes) and heart disease, the leading killer of women. Being treated for PCOS can safeguard your life, so it’s important to recognize PCOS symptoms, which can vary from woman to woman. Here are some of the most common.
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