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Why more young women are developing PCOS in South Asia?

PCOS in South Asia: Obesity and environmental factors have been identified as significant contributors and there are other factors that may also be playing a role. Ultimately, a multidisciplinary approach that addresses the many factors contributing to PCOS will be needed to effectively manage and prevent this disorder in South Asian women.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal disorder among women of reproductive age that affects their menstrual cycle and can lead to infertility, weight gain, acne, and excess hair growth. While the exact causes of PCOS remain unclear, studies suggest that genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors may play a role.

Alarmingly, most women of reproductive age are rapidly developing this disorder. Problems related to conceiving a child and childbirth are further associated with it. Being unable to conceive is one of the leading causes of mental stress and anxiety. PCOS is thus a much larger issue and it is very important to know the lifestyle-related habits which contribute towards it.

PCOS stats from South Asia

According to a study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health, the prevalence of PCOS in South Asian women ranges from 3.7% to 22.5%, which is significantly higher than the global average of 5% to 10%. One of the main reasons behind the rising prevalence of PCOS in the South Asian region is a shift in dietary patterns. As the region undergoes rapid urbanization and globalization, traditional diets are being replaced with high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sugar diets, which can increase insulin resistance and lead to hormonal imbalances. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that South Asian women who consumed a diet high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats were at a higher risk of developing PCOS.

Another factor contributing to the rising prevalence of PCOS in South Asian women is obesity. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, obesity is a significant risk factor for PCOS, and the prevalence of obesity is increasing rapidly in the South Asian region. The study found that South Asian women with a body mass index (BMI) of over 25 were three times more likely to have PCOS than those with a BMI below 23.

Impact of culture and society

Cultural and societal factors may also contribute to the rising prevalence of PCOS in South Asian women. For example, the stigma surrounding menstrual health in many South Asian cultures may discourage women from seeking medical attention for menstrual irregularities, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment of PCOS. Additionally, the pressure to conceive and bear children early in marriage may lead to an early diagnosis of PCOS.

Another factor that may be contributing to the rising prevalence of PCOS is a lack of physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle is a known risk factor for PCOS, and many women in the South Asian region lead increasingly inactive lives due to the prevalence of desk jobs, urbanization, and a lack of safe public spaces for physical activity. It is however important to note that PCOS is a complex and multifactorial disorder, and the reasons for its rising prevalence in South Asian women may be different from those in other regions.

Prevention and treatment

In terms of prevention and treatment, there are several strategies that can be effective in managing PCOS. These include lifestyle modifications such as healthy dietary habits and regular physical activity, as well as early diagnosis and treatment. According to the research, Cross-sectional Study on the Knowledge and Prevalence of PCOS at a Multiethnic University, “Although medical practitioners play an important role in diagnosing PCOS and educating individuals about this disorder, the cost and time for diagnosis and treatment discourage several young women from seeking help. Additionally, it is important for healthcare providers to be culturally cognizant while disseminating this information. Overall, raising awareness about PCOS is critical not only among women but among men as well.”  Healthcare providers in the region should also be trained to recognize the symptoms of PCOS and provide culturally sensitive care to women affected by the disorder. Additionally, promoting healthy dietary habits and physical activity can help prevent PCOS in South Asia and improve overall reproductive health.

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