Diabetes, a chronic illness that affects how the body turns food into energy, affects more than 34 million people in the United States. While diabetes is common in both men and women, the disease affects women differently. Women have a higher risk of developing diabetes-related complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, and depression. Women also experience the disease differently due to menopause.
Menopause and diabetes are often referred to as the twin challenge because their combined symptoms can result in a slew of negative effects on the body. The body makes less estrogen after menopause, which can cause unpredictable changes in blood sugar. Other symptoms of menopause, such as weight gain, can more seriously affect women with diabetes.
If you’re a woman living with or at risk of developing the disease, it’s important to understand the effects of menopause and diabetes and how you can take action to prevent them.
Understand The Effects
The combined effects of menopause and diabetes can put you at a higher risk of the following issues.
Changes in Blood Sugar Levels
Menopause causes changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that affect how cells respond to insulin. Hormonal changes from menopause can trigger fluctuations in blood sugar, which is especially dangerous for people with diabetes.
Being overweight puts you at risk of developing diabetes, and weight management is an important aspect of managing diabetes. Weight gain is a common menopausal symptom, which could put non-diabetic women at higher risk of developing the disease and make it harder for diabetic women to maintain a healthy weight.
Getting plenty of quality sleep is important for managing blood sugar levels. Hot flashes and night sweats resulting from menopause can disrupt sleep, with the resulting sleep deprivation making it harder to manage blood sugar.
High blood sugar levels are a contributing factor to vaginal and urinary tract infections, putting women with diabetes at higher risk for developing them. The risk becomes even higher after menopause when low estrogen levels make it easier for bacteria to thrive.
The combined effects of menopause and diabetes can wreak havoc on the body, but the following steps will help you manage symptoms of both.
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Among the many reasons to exercise regularly is that it helps manage symptoms of menopause and diabetes. Physical activity helps your body be more sensitive to insulin, allowing the management of blood sugar levels. Exercise will also help you maintain a healthy weight, preventing the weight gain associated with menopause.
Eating right is another important aspect of managing diabetes. Healthy carbohydrates and foods rich in fiber help break down glucose and control blood sugar levels.
Healthy food will also help you feel your best post-menopause and when experiencing menopausal symptoms.
Measure Blood Sugar Frequently
Menopause and diabetes can make blood sugar levels unpredictable, so be sure to measure your blood sugar frequently. Additionally, menopausal symptoms can sometimes be confused for high or low blood sugar, making it important to carefully monitor blood sugar levels so you can treat the issues accordingly.
Manage Menopausal Symptoms
Managing menopausal symptoms will reduce your risk of experiencing the twin effects of menopause and diabetes. Talk to your gynecologist about your options for managing weight gain, hot flashes, sleep problems, and more symptoms associated with menopause.
Talk to Your Doctor
If you’ve noticed changes to your blood sugar levels following the onset of menopause, ask your doctor about changing or adjusting diabetes medications. Additionally, people with diabetes, especially women, are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. You should talk to your doctor about ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, such as cholesterol-lowering medications.
Talk to a Menopause Practitioner
Dr. Karen Clark of Chapel Hill Gynecology is a certified menopause practitioner, experienced in helping patients as they transition to menopause. If you’re worried about menopause and diabetes, Dr. Clark can help you manage the menopausal symptoms and develop a treatment plan. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Clark, call (919) 960-2720. Chapel Hill Gynecology is open for office visits (using recommended protocols for preventing COVID-19 exposure) as well as telemedicine visits.