How to Reduce a PCOS Risk by Controlling 'Blood Sludge'

If you read the introduction to blood sludge article and saw the video, you'll recall I discussed that women with PCOS tend to have several indications of increased risk for cardiovascular disease. One of those potential risks may be increased blood viscosity, or "blood sludge". High viscosity means your blood does not flow easily.

In Part 1 of the article, I laid out the problem but didn't offer any solutions to help you reduce your risk. Here is Part 2 of the article, which contains some ideas for avoiding too much blood viscosity.

1. Hydration

Hydration means keeping enough water on board. Don't forget -- your body is most water, including your bloodstream.

Your best source of water is in the whole, fresh vegetables and fruits because they are mostly water. Beside the water itself, whole vegetables and fruits also provide nutritional elements that are essential for preventing heart disease.

You can also consume high-liquid foods such as home-made soups. Drink water as needed.

When you become dehydrated, the fluidity of your bloodstream decreases.

2. Fructose

Stay away from all foods containing added fructose. A diet high in fructose has been shown to increase blood viscosity. Fructose is also called "fruit sugar".

Fructose is a sweetener added to many processed foods and beverages to make them taste better. When you look on the label of a food product, you may encounter all kinds of technical-sounding words that described the sweeteners in the product. The most common fructose sweetener is called "high fructose corn syrup". If you don't understand what the sweetener is, just stay away from that product. In fact, I recommend you stay away from all types of "natural" and artificial sweeteners except stevia.

Don't be fooled by a product that proclaims it is "naturally sweetened" with fructose. There's nothing natural about it. The only natural fructose that is OK is found in whole fruit. Fructose in an apple is OK. Apple juice and applesauce is not OK. Dried apple slices are not OK. Granola or energy bars sweetened with fructose is definitely not OK. Any beverage containing fructose is a bad idea.

3. Birth control pills

Birth control pills are a possible contributor to bloodstream viscosity. The University of Patras Medical School in Greece studied 66 women with PCOS. After six months of treatment with birth control pills, their viscosity increased.

In another study of 96 women with PCOS, the Patras Medical School found that those individuals who had either insulin resistance or obesity also had more viscous blood.

So if you're taking birth control pills as a convenient way to manage PCOS, or if you have insulin resistance or weight issues, consider dietary and other steps to keep your blood flowing smoothly.

4. Fats

High levels of trans fats and saturated fats in your diet can impair blood flow. On the other hand, fish or fish oil appears to improve blood flow.

5. Nutritional supplements

There are quite a few nutritional supplements that can help to improve ease of blood flow. Those include magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin E, fish oil, berberine and various enzymes. If I were to pick just one, I would probably start with a high EPA fish oil.

6. Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is an issue in PCOS and thought to be the primary cause of cardiovascular disease. Inflammation causes increases blood viscosity and blood pressure, among other problems. Inflammation is a big topic. But the best place to start is always with your diet. What you eat can either suppress or stimulate inflammation. Refer to this e-book for more information.

7. Diet

Eat a healthier diet, with special emphasis on dietary fiber found in vegetables. Check to see if you're consuming at least five servings of whole vegetables every day. This e-book has an extensive discussion of vegetables and fiber.

8. Exercise

Let's not leave out physical activity! It's a marvelous way to reduce insulin resistance and thus lessen a factor involved in blood sludge.

9. Viscosity test

Get a viscosity test, if you can. Blood viscosity is a valid biomarker for cardiovascular disease. It is a strong predictor of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, heart attack and death from heart disease.

Blood viscosity is important because thicker, stickier blood is more abrasive and damages arterial walls. Thus, it not only affects how hard the heart has to work to circulate the blood, but also contributes to inflammation of the lining of the vessels. It contributes to blood vessel dysfunction, growth of atherosclerotic lesions, and plaque rupture. Impaired blood flow due to highly viscous blood leads to decreased oxygen and nutrients delivered to the tissues, affecting critical areas such as the brain, eyes, and kidneys.

I think the best blood viscosity test is for "whole blood viscosity". Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, only one lab (Meridian Valley Lab) in North America offers this test. But a blood specimen can be mailed to them by your doctor.

Note: If your cholesterol level is "normal", that does not necessarily mean you are in the clear or you don't have "blood sludge". It's advisable that you be vigilant in keeping your blood system flowing smoothly.

This is not the full story on improving your blood circulation. But it's a start!

See Related PCOS and Cardiovascular Articles

Is PCOS Affecting Your Heart?

Do You Have Non-Dipping Blood Pressure?

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Sources:
Olatunji LA et al, Effect of a high-fructose diet on glucose tolerance, plasma lipid and hemorheological parameters during oral contraceptive administration in female rats. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc. 2012 May 29. [Epub ahead of print]
Markantes G eet al, Increased plasma viscosity in young women with polycystic ovary syndrome using an oral contraceptive containing 35 µg ethinyl estradiol and 2 mg cyproterone acetate. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2011 Dec;27(12):971-7.
Tai CJ et al, Differential effect of high dietary fat intakes on haemorheological parameters in rats. Br J Nutr. 2010 Apr;103(7):977-83.
Dou M et al, Supplementation with magnesium and vitamin E were more effective than magnesium alone to decrease plasma lipids and blood viscosity in diabetic rats. Nutr Res. 2009 Jul;29(7):519-24.
Woodcock BE et al. Beneficial effect of fish oil on blood viscosity in peripheral vascular disease. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1984 Feb 25;288(6417):592-4.
Lominadze D et al. Mechanisms of fibrinogen-induced microvascular dysfunction during cardiovascular disease. Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2010 Jan;198(1):1-13.

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