Preliminary research finds that users with a PCOS diagnosis are about three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes and nearly twice as likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
Apple continues to add health features to its Apple Watch and iPhone, including giving users the opportunity to opt into research studies if they download the Apple Research app. On Monday, Apple shared preliminary findings from its Women's Health Study that include a stronger link between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and other health conditions.
The study, in partnership with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, confirmed that users with a PCOS diagnosis (about 12% of people in the study) were much more likely to experience irregular periods. Almost half of those with PCOS have never experienced regular menstrual cycles (infrequent or occurring outside of 24 to 38 days) without using hormones (such as a combined birth control pill) to regulate periods, compared with only 22% of users without a PCOS diagnosis.
The information comes from 30,000 people who completed a reproductive health survey, including questions about their menstrual cycles.
PCOS is a common condition and a leading cause of infertility. If people are better able to track and catch menstrual cycle irregularities, they may also be able to stay on top of other potential health concerns down the road.
The Apple study found that users with a PCOS diagnosis were about three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, about four times more likely to have prediabetes and nearly twice as likely to have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. They might also be more likely to have an irregular heartbeat.
The study sharpens the focus on women's reproductive health as it relates to clinical research and general wellbeing.
"Despite the association between PCOS and heart-related conditions, historically, research studies about heart health have not included information about menstrual cycles," Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah, one of the researchers and an assistant professor of environmental, reproductive, and women's health at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.
"More broadly speaking, menstrual health is also significantly under-represented in the research space," she said.
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