High Cholesterol and PCOS

Cholesterol and PCOS

Cholesterol is a type of fat that is both made by the body, and ingested through our diet. Abnormal cholesterol levels are unhealthy and can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Women with Polycystic Ovary Synrome (PCOS) are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease due to the higher prevalence of obesity and insulin resistance. Approximately 70% of women with PCOS have dyslipidemia, a medical condition that includes high levels of triglycerides (TG) and low levels of high density lipoprotein HDL (good cholesterol).

Diagnosing High Cholesterol

Diagnosing abnormal cholesterol levels is easily done through a blood test. There are four major fat components that will be listed on your lipid panel:

Total cholesterol

According to the National Cholesterol Education Program total cholesterol levels:

  • Desirable level is less than 200 mg/dL (5.17 mmol/L)
  • Levels between 200 mg/dL and 239 mg/dL (5.17–6.18 mmol/L) are considered borderline for high cholesterol.
  • Levels at or above 240 mg/dL (6.21 mmol/L ) are considered high total cholesterol levels. This may put you at an increased risk for heart disease.

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL is known as the bad cholesterol. It is produced by the liver and carried in the blood throughout the body. In high quantities, it can accumulate on the wall of the blood vessels and create blockages.

The current guidelines for LDL levels are:

  • LDL levels less than 100 mg/dL ( 2.6 mmol/L) are considered optimal.
  • LDL levels between 100 – 129 mg/dL (2.6–3.34 mmol/L) are considered near or above optimal.
  • LDL levels between 130 – 159 mg/dL (3.36–4.13 mmol/L) are considered borderline high.
  • LDL levels between 160 – 189 mg/dL (4.14 - 4.90 mmol/L) are considered high.
  • LDL levels at or above 190 mg/dL (4.91 mmol/L) is considered very high.

    High density lipoprotein (HDL)

    HDL, is considered to be the “good” cholesterol. In sufficient amounts, it keeps bad cholesterol from building up in the blood vessels. An undesirable level of HDL is any level below 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L). In this case,low HDL levels may help to contribute to heart disease.


    Triglycerides are the fat in your blood stream and are typicaly elevated with insulin resistance. An undesirable level of HDL is any level below 40 mg/dL (1.04 mmol/L). Having low HDL levels may help to contribute to heart disease.

    Treating High Cholesterol

    If your cholesterol levels are abnormal, your physician may suggest a number of lifestyle changes to see if they are effective in improving your levels.

    Reducing your intake of saturated fat to less than 7% of your total calories is important. Sources of saturated fat typically include animal products such as red meat, processed poultry, and butter. Instead, replace saturated fat with unsaturated sources of fat such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.

    Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber and phytonutrients, is also important.

    Additionally, including 2 grams each day of plant stanols has been shown to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease.

    Losing weight, increasing activity or exercise and quitting smoking are all interventions that work together to improve your cholesterol levels. However, if they are not effective, your physician may prescribe one of a number of medications known as statins to lower cholesterol levels.


    Baldani DP, Skrgatic L, Ougouag R.Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Important Underrecognised Cardiometabolic Risk Factor in Reproductive-Age Women. Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015

    Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF)

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