To test the hypothesis that polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is associated with an increased risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older postmenopausal women.
Cross-sectional study of community-dwelling non-estrogen-using postmenopausal-white women (N = 713; mean ± SD age, 73.8 ± 7.9 years; mean body mass index, 24.0 ± 3.5 kg/m2) participating in the Rancho Bernardo Study. A putative PCOS phenotype was defined as the presence of three or more of the following features: (1) recalled history of irregular menses, (2) symptomatic premenopausal hyperandrogenism or biochemical evidence of current biochemical hyperandrogenism, (3) history of infertility or miscarriage, (4) central obesity, or (5) insulin resistance. Atherosclerotic CVD was determined from clinical history, electrocardiography, and structured interviews using validated techniques. The analysis was stratified by diabetes status, ascertained from medical history or 75-g oral glucose tolerance tests.
The PCOS phenotype was present in 9.3% of the entire cohort and 5.8% of nondiabetic women. The prevalence of CVD was similar between women with the phenotype and unaffected women (27.3% vs 24.4%). Among women with intact ovaries and no diabetes, there was a stepwise graded association between an increasing number of features of the PCOS phenotype (ie, none to three or more) and prevalent CVD (P = 0.02). A similar association was also observed for coronary heart disease alone (P = 0.03).
Among nondiabetic postmenopausal women with intact ovaries, prevalent atherosclerotic CVD is associated with features of a putative PCOS phenotype. This finding supports the thesis that PCOS increases the risk of atherosclerotic CVD after menopause.