1 in 10 women have PCOS—but many of them don't even realize it. Here's what you need to know about this endocrine disorder.
Though it was first described in 1935, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) remains a misunderstood and under-diagnosed endocrine disorder—and a very common one, affecting one in ten women. But experts say about half the women and girls who have PCOS don't know it, which is a huge problem when you consider the health implications of leaving the disorder untreated. (Think diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and more.) That's why, for PCOS Awareness Month, people have been taking part in the Lemon Face Challenge (#lemonfacechallenge), which helps put a (sour) face to this cause. Wondering if you might have PCOS? Read on for more info about risk factors, how to spot the symptoms and how it can impact your fertility.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormonal endocrine disorder in females, affecting 10-15% of teenage girls and women. “It’s a complex condition that affects many systems in the body, including metabolism, hormones, fertility, and the brain and immune system. It has genetic origins, and certain environmental and dietary factors can make it worse. The name PCOS is somewhat misleading as cysts aren’t present in many women—which is why experts are considering a name change to reflect the overall nature of its far-reaching and lifelong effects,” says Dr. Fiona McCulloch, author of 8 Steps To Reverse Your PCOS.
Who is at risk?
“It affects an estimated 2 million women in Canada and an estimated 50% don't know they have it. Women with a family history of diabetes, or who have relatives with PCOS can be at risk,” says Dr. McCulloch.
What are the symptoms?
The biggest indicator is an irregular menstrual cycle; it might be super-short (meaning, you get your period several times a month) or stretched out (not getting it for three months) and the flow can range from very light to very heavy. Other symptoms include excess body hair on the face, chest, back, hands and around the nipples, thinning hair on scalp, weight gain—particularly around the waist due to insulin resistance, fertility complications and skin issues, including persistent acne and dark patches of skin on the neck, armpits or between the breasts.
How is it diagnosed?
Dr. McCulloch says, PCOS is typically diagnosed when a woman has two of the three following signs:
1) Anovulation (the failure to either produce an egg or discharge it from an ovary) or delayed ovulation (cycles that are typically 35 days or longer).
2) High levels of hormones such as testosterone or clinical signs of high androgens like hirsutism (facial hair growth), acne or alopecia.
3) Polycystic ovaries detected via an ultrasound.
Does PCOS affect women trying to get pregnant?
It's the leading cause of female infertility. It impacts a woman's ovulation and egg quality, and is also associated with miscarriages, says Dr. McCulloch.
What other health complications can women with PCOS experience?
It can have serious health consequences. Women with PCOS are at risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, Hashimoto's thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, depression and anxiety.
What are the treatment options?
There is no cure for PCOS. The most important intervention that can make a difference is proper nutrition. “Following a low-glycemic or insulin-index diet can help to manage insulin resistance, which is central to the condition," says Dr. McCulloch. One study found that a low-starch, low-dairy diet benefitted weight loss, reduced testosterone and improved the markers of insulin-resistance in women with PCOS.
Exercise has also been found to improve PCOS—even a modest 5 percent reduction in weight can drastically improve symptoms.
“When it comes to conventional medical care, the most common intervention is the oral contraceptive pill to regulate menses, metformin to manage insulin resistance, and anti-androgen medications like Spironolactone to reduce the effects of testosterone,” says Dr. McCulloch.
Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad <br> Photography by Joe Kim Credits: Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad <br> Photography by Joe Kim
Planning a picnic or family barbecue anytime soon? Give yourself one less thing to worry about and go for one of our easy pasta salad recipes. It's sure to be a hit!
Pasta salads are great to make ahead, and are absolute tops for large groups. They also take the cake for being an extremely versatile dish – with a host of added ingredients, toppings and dressings, simple pasta salads can go from humble side to star entrée in no time.
We asked Test Kitchen food specialist Amanda Barnier to share some top tips for preparing pasta salads, and why they're a crowd favourite. Here's what she had to share:
Pasta salads: the perfect make-ahead dish
"Pasta salads can easily be prepped in advance and can feed a crowd with little effort," Amanda says. "It can be made in advance and cooled immediately after cooking."
One important tip to remember, she adds, is to "add dressing the day it's being served, because it will quickly absorb the dressing."
Pasta salad favourites
"I like using cheese filled tortellini for a hearty salad. Soba and rice noodles are great with Asian dressings, whole grain and coloured pastas," Amanda says.
How to store pasta salads
"Keep salads well wrapped and refrigerated," she says. "Salad has the same storage life as its ingredients. Seafood is best eaten within 2 days, and chicken (within) 2 to 3 days. If traveling, be sure to store pasta salads in coolers packed with lots of ice."
"Proteins should not be within 4 C and 60 C for longer than a four hour period," she adds.
The long and short of it: best pasta shapes
"Short shapes are best with vinaigrettes and creamy dressings, and chunky ingredients such as chopped vegetables and beans," Amanda says.
"Long pasta shapes are better used with thinly sliced vegetables, proteins, herbs, spices and vinaigrettes."
Tips for making pasta salad
"If making a pasta salad in advance, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well," she advises. "Add dressing just prior to serving. Pasta quickly absorbs liquids; if the dressing is added too soon, the pasta will absorb it."
So whether you prefer chunky pasta salads with a cool, creamy dressing perfect for summer picnics, or entrée-worthy pasta salads with long rice noodles and a tangy vinaigrette, you're sure to find a new favourite with from our collection.
Easy pasta salad recipes:
Lemony Red Pepper and Asparagus Pasta Salad
A bright vinaigrette makes this pasta salad the ultimate dish to serve at any summer party.
Photography by Joe Kim
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
This salad highlights many fresh flavours of the Mediterranean and is at its best when made with good-quality olive oil.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
The Best Macaroni Salad
This is a great keeper salad and perfect for a picnic or BBQ. Just make sure you pack it with plenty of ice packs to keep it nice and cold, both during transportation and at the table.
Photography by Annabelle Waugh
Chicken, Broccoli and Bocconcini Pasta Salad
Make this pasta salad for the whole family—the kids will love the mild dressing and round bocconcini cheese, while the adults will appreciate it as a light alternative to a sandwich.
Photography by Jeff Coulson
More great pasta salad recipes:
Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
This salad is simple to assemble for a quick family meal.
Warm Spinach and Ham Pasta Salad
Dressed with Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar, this penne pasta salad is a winner topped with goat cheese and cherry tomatoes.
Winter Vegetable Pasta Salad
Cook everything together in one pot for this easy warm salad.
Pea, Pepper and Pasta Salad
This make-ahead salad is perfect for toting to a potluck barbecue or picnic. Toss the salad with the dressing right before serving so the peas stay bright green.
Summer Pasta Salad
Serve this light summery salad with crispy, homemade Parmesan Breadsticks.
Mediterranean Fusilli Salad
Fresh basil, hearty beans, piquant sun-dried tomatoes and al dente pasta make the perfect summer salad.
Warm Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
The dressing lends a taste of summer any time of year. The red peppers provide vitamins A and C and potassium. Quick and easy to make, this salad is perfect to take to a last-minute potluck or picnic.
Grilled Sausage, Pepper and Bocconcini Pasta Salad
This delicious pasta salad is made with tasty Italian sausage and lots of colourful peppers.
Bow-Tie Pasta Salad
This easy, colourful salad has the sunny fresh tastes of Greece.
Tuna Pasta Salad
Using tuna packed in both oil and broth means you'll need less oil in the dressing.
Salmon Pasta Salad
Start with melon wedges to whet your appetite for this quick and light dinner.
Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad
Grilled market-fresh veggies meet marinated olives and artichokes in this healthy dish made with whole wheat rotini. So chock full with taste and texture, carnivores won't complain about this vegetarian dish.
Party Parmesan Pasta Salad
Try this hearty salad studded with salami, olives, tiny tomatoes, roasted pepper and fresh basil.
Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
This easy tasty pasta salad is loaded with calcium. Omit the banana peppers if your child is not a fan of hot food.
Deli Pasta Salad
Add 1-1/4 cups (300 mL) extra pasta to the pot at dinner the night before to have enough for this lunchtime salad the next day.
Sirloin Steak with Green Bean Pasta Salad
Sirloin steaks paired with green beans and tomatoes make this salad a hearty entrée.
Looking for more great recipes? Try our best potato salad recipes.
Getty Images Credits: Getty Images
Go on, have another slice of pumpkin pie.
There are few things better than a great big Thanksgiving feast shared with family and friends. If you choose your outfit wisely, you're free to indulge without worrying about rigid waistbands or fitted dresses holding you back.
We've got outfit ideas that will keep you comfy and stylish, no matter how you celebrate this totally indulgent holiday.
A cozy Thanksgiving with your immediate family
Not all families have large gatherings around the holidays. Maybe you're cooking a turkey breast (or tofurky) instead of the whole bird, or maybe there's no dinner at all and you'll spend the evening watching movies on the couch. If you're planning something small with just your partner, or your parents, or your kids, keep your outfit simple. We love the idea of an oversized shirt dress (bonus points for season-appropriate tartan), topped with a maxi cardigan. Flat, menswear-inspired shoes and sparkly socks keep this look from being too casual—you still want to look nice, after all.
Thanksgiving at the cottage
Whether you're going with only a few people, or your entire family, Thanksgiving at the cottage has something going for it other than the scenery—the very casual dress code. We recommend a stretchy, long-sleeve top paired with boyfriend jeans (the baggier, the better) and a roomy turtleneck sweater (the one shown below is actually a vest). Finish off the look with simple (waterproof) boots, just in case you decide to walk off that second serving of mashed potatoes after dinner.
The big family affair
If you're attending a fam jam with all of your relatives, you need to look on point—especially if someone in the group is an amateur photographer. There will be pictures. And you will be tagged on Facebook. We recommend opting for roomy trousers (a drawstring helps) in a stylish fabric like velvet, which also happens to be extremely comfortable. Pair with a long, roomy sweater in a flattering colour (this eggplant works with all skin tones) and sparkly accessories. For shoes, try a comfortable ankle boot with a trendy western-inspired twist.
If you're having a friends-only Thanksgiving event, we recommend playing with texture for added interest in your oversized ensemble. Keep it comfy with an A-line blouse (the one shown is in classic denim) and faux-leather leggings, which are both fancy and comfortable. Top it off with your favourite blanket scarf or poncho and some cool boots. This outfit will keep you covered, whether you indulge in drinks, turkey or cake—or all of the above.