Research from Apple, Harvard highlights the relationship between PCOS, heart health and disease

New research from Apple and the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health shed light on the link between polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), heart disease, and menstrual cycles.

PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility in the United States. However, the cause of the condition is still unknown.

Preliminary data from Apple’s and Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health’s Women’s Health Study found that women with PCOS are more likely to have a family history of the condition and more likely to have a number of diseases, including type 2 diabetes.

While PCOS affects between Historically, 9% and 18% of women of reproductive age have experienced a delayed diagnosis.

“Despite the association between PCOS and heart-related disease, studies of heart health have historically not included information about menstrual cycles,” said Dr. Shruthi Mahalingaiah of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in a statement.

“More broadly, menstrual health is also significantly underrepresented in the research space. Our study fills a research gap by delving deeper into how menstruation and menstrual cycles can be a window into overall health.

“The level of research being conducted by the Apple Women’s Health Study is important for a better understanding of PCOS and its health implications, including for people with PCOS and those who may have PCOS but don’t know it.”

Study participants answered a medical history survey, which asked about their health, as well as a family history and a survey of reproductive history. The Women’s Health Study, which includes a cohort of about 30,000 women, found that 12% of the study participants had PCOS. Participants tracked their periods and symptoms on the Cycle Tracking feature on their Apple iPhone or Apple Watch.

Individuals with the condition were more likely to have relatives with the condition (23%) than their peers without PCOS.

Researchers found that women with PCOS were more likely to have irregular periods than their peers without the condition. In fact, the study found that 49% of participants with the condition never had regular menstrual cycles before using hormones, compared to 22% of participants without PCOS.

Participants with PCOS were also more likely to have certain health conditions. For example, women with the condition were three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes and two times more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Just over 60% of individuals with PCOS reported being obese, compared to 34.4% of participants without the condition. The study found that 5.6% of participants with the condition had an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, while 3.7% of participants without PCOS had irregularities.


A study of the Endocrine Society found that PCOS research is less funded than other conditions with similar morbidity and similar or lower mortality prevalence. Apple and Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health want to use the Women’s Health Study to collect more data on the condition.

“Continuing with this preliminary analysis, we hope to create a larger baseline data set on PCOS, with self-tracked variables and its association with heart health, which can help us understand the condition, develop treatments and inspire new ones.” areas of research around the world. women’s health,” said Mahalingaiah.

“Our hope is that by expanding our understanding of the public health burden of PCOS, we can create research models that can be applied to further scientific understanding of other health problems and the burden of other diseases.”


The Apple Women’s Health Study – Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health was the first announced in 2019. In March 2021, researchers released a preliminary data analysis of the study, including statistics on common menstrual symptoms.

Apple has collaborated with a number of health research institutions in the past. The tech giant partnered with Stanford University on the Apple Heart Study and the University of Michigan on hearing health research.