the GE Healthcare Women’s Heart Health campaign. These elevated insulin levels also result in excess testosterone production by the ovaries, which causes excessive facial hair growth that women with PCOS often experience. Other symptoms include male pattern baldness, thinning hair, acne, oily skin, and infertility. PCOS sufferers are also at greater risk for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Whether obesity is a cause or result of PCOS is not clear. What is known is that weight gain is one of the main symptoms. Carney had poor eating habits that compounded her difficulty with losing weight. “My eating habits were absolutely atrocious and I got zero extracurricular physical activity,” she says.
There were, and still are, no FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of PCOS. As with many sufferers of PCOS, Carney was prescribed birth control pills to regulate her hormone levels, but they caused Carney to gain weight and suffer from excessive sweating. Carney decided to research her best medication options. She found a French study about a drug called Flutamide. In the United States, the drug had been approved to treat prostate cancer. But several doctors refused to prescribe it to her for PCOS. Eventually, she found a physician who consented but insisted on monthly liver checkups and swore her off alcohol. “It ended up being the perfect medication for me,” says Carney.
“Whatever physician you’re working with, it’s a partnership,
” she continues. “The doctor—patient relationship should not be adversarial.”
Carney also adopted an exercise regimen that resulted in her shedding 90 pounds in 14 months. She also changed her diet by reducing her intake of refined carbohydrates and eating more fresh vegetables. Carney is now a spokesperson for NutriSystem. She also started a Website to educate women about PCOS, www.soulcysters.com, and another support Website for those struggling to control their weight, www.fitatanysize.com.
Medical Tests and Screenings For Those in Their 30s
- Annual physical exam, which checks blood pressure, weight, cholesterol, and vision. Women should get a Pap smear.
- EKG to check heart rate
- Screening for diabetes and cholesterol levels
Name: Benjamin I. Green III, Age: 45, Health concerns: hypertension and high cholesterol, Symptoms: constant headaches, irritability, and tightness in the head
Degree of involvement: Green went for annual physicals and only when his headaches became unbearable.
Results: In January 2001, he was treated in the hospital for hypertension headaches only to find that his blood pressure was at the cardiac/stroke level. A change of eating habits, medication, along with exercise, has improved his health.
What Ben Green didn’t know almost killed him. His chronic headaches weren’t just stress-related. They were crucial warning signs that would have prompted him to seek medical attention sooner if he had known how close he was to death.
Green, an electronic data interchange administrator for FOX Cable Networks Group, was concerned about developing asthma, which ran in his family. He wasn’t as concerned about his eating habits. He loaded up weekly at his favorite fast-food restaurant. “It was a ritual,” he says. “Fried chicken, fried fish, lots of hot sauce. I ate a lot of