Lifestyle Changes for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in Adults

NYU Langone doctors often recommend making lifestyle changes to manage the symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and prevent complications.

Reduce Sugars and Carbohydrates

Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance, in which the body doesn’t use the hormone insulin effectively. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, enables the body to use glucose, or sugar, from food for energy. It also helps keeps blood sugar levels in check. To lower blood sugar, your doctor may recommend eating a diet low in sugar and other simple carbohydrates. 

The ideal diet consists of a variety of foods from various food groups—healthy carbohydrates, such as vegetables and fruits; lean meats, such as poultry; fish; and high fiber grains. Doctors advise focusing on foods that are low in sugar and fat and have a low glycemic index. Low glycemic index foods cause the body to release insulin slowly and steadily, making it easier for your body to use food as energy rather than store it as fat. Foods high in fiber also help control blood sugar levels.  

Because carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, it’s helpful to limit the amount you consume. Try to avoid refined carbs, which are found in processed foods, especially white flour, rice, potatoes, and sugar. You should also avoid sugary drinks, including soda and juice.

Manage Weight

Many, but not all, women with PCOS are overweight. Over time, they may become obese. That can lead to many health problems, including infertility, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 

To help you lose weight, NYU Langone’s registered dietitians and nutritionists can create a healthy diet low in fat and calories. They can teach you how to keep track of what you eat by writing it down or using calorie-counting aids. Paying attention to portion size is also key in losing weight.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has many benefits in treating PCOS. It helps you combat obesity by burning calories and building muscle mass, which decreases insulin resistance. Exercise can also help lower cholesterol levels and those of other hormones, such as testosterone.

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