Menopause and Diabetes: What Women Need to Know
Type 2 diabetes is a condition that’s becoming increasingly common, especially in older adults. And as women age, there’s another big health change that happens: menopause. Living with diabetes is challenging on its own – but what happens when menopause arrives?
Trying to manage both menopause and diabetes isn’t easy. Your entire body can be thrown for a loop, as menopause affects everything from your hormone levels to your blood glucose.
And medical researchers are discovering that there’s more of a link between menopause and type 2 diabetes than was previously thought. These uniquely connected health conditions can be frustrating. But if you’re prepared for what to expect, they don’t have to be.
Here’s what you need to know about menopause and type 2 diabetes, and how you can manage a life that may include both.
Early Menopause May Increase Your Risk for Type 2 Diabetes
If you aren’t currently living with type 2 diabetes, you likely aren’t concerned with the complications menopause can introduce for diabetics. However, every woman should know just how closely connected type 2 diabetes and menopause are. It could directly affect you and your health.
Even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, the start of menopause will increase your risk of developing the condition.
And if you begin menopause early, your risk for type 2 diabetes is even higher.
A recent study conducted in the Netherlands discovered this concerning connection. After following 4,000 women, researchers learned that females who went through menopause early – before age 40 – were four times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who went through menopause at age 55 or older.
The earlier menopause arrives, the higher your risk is for developing type 2 diabetes. For every year menopause is delayed, the diabetes risk falls 4 percent.
However, researchers and medical experts aren’t sure why early menopause can lead to type 2 diabetes. More research is needed – but right now, the facts point to early menopause being a key factor in a high risk for type 2 diabetes in women. And that’s something that can affect every woman.
Hormonal Changes During Menopause Can Affect Your Blood Glucose
When menopause arrives, it brings a host of changes. Women experience a wide variety of side effects, and those side effects can alter everything from mood to weight to hormone levels.
However, what many women don’t realize is that menopause can also directly affect some of the body’s most important processes – like the creation of blood glucose. And if you’re living with type 2 diabetes, this can be problematic.
As menopause begins to alter your menstrual cycle, your hormones will fluctuate. Your periods will become less frequent, which will change the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your body. While your body has been used to a 28-day cycle, it’ll now suddenly be in flux.
And these hormonal changes and fluctuations can directly affect your blood glucose levels. When your hormones shift, so can your blood glucose. This can make it difficult for women with type 2 diabetes to manage their diabetes. It can also make it hard to keep your blood glucose levels stable throughout the day or week.
It’s important for women to keep this in mind as menopause begins. Along with the traditional symptoms of menopause, anyone living with type 2 diabetes needs to closely monitor their blood glucose and adjust as needed.
Menopause Symptoms Can Make Managing Diabetes Difficult
As menopause begins, its symptoms will become noticeable. But these aren’t the only changes women need to pay close attention to. If you have type 2 diabetes, you may notice some unusual and unique symptoms caused by the combination of both health conditions.
Menopause can directly affect type 2 diabetes, which causes some unexpected symptoms and changes. And the opposite also happens – type 2 diabetes can affect your menopause symptoms. It’s like the two team up, creating additional and similar changes. This can make it a bit more difficult to manage both conditions for the duration of menopause.
The following joint symptoms of menopause and type 2 diabetes can occur in women, making it difficult to manage your overall health:
- Weight Gain: Women can gain weight during menopause, and this can mean big changes for type 2 diabetics. It may cause you to require insulin or new diabetes medications, especially if you’re finding it difficult to lose the new weight.
- Infections: As hormones shift and change, so too will blood glucose levels. And when this happens, women are at a higher risk for developing urinary tract and vaginal infections.
- Sleep Problems: Hot flashes during menopause can make it difficult to sleep at night. And when you miss out on a good night’s sleep, your blood glucose levels can be harder to get under control.
- Sexual Problems: Diabetes can result in nerve damage that leads to sexual issues like difficulty with arousal and orgasm. When menopause introduces vaginal dryness, this can make sexual problems increasingly challenging.
How to Live Comfortably With Menopause and Diabetes
Although menopause can dramatically alter your type 2 diabetes management – or even increase your odds of developing type 2 diabetes – there are options and solutions. You can manage both menopause and diabetes. You just need to find the right methods to live comfortably and as healthy as possible.
In order to better manage diabetes while going through menopause, it’s important to speak with your doctor. Your doctor can recommend different options that are suited for your unique needs.
You can also try a few different adjustments to see if you can better manage both menopause and diabetes. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following:
Form Healthy Habits
Sticking to a healthy diet and making time to exercise regularly are key in managing diabetes. Adjusting your diet and physical activity can alleviate menopause symptoms too.
Check Your Blood Sugar Often
Closely monitoring your blood glucose will help you better monitor its changes and what’s happening in your body.
Ask Your Doctor About Adjusting Medications
Due to the hormonal and physical changes menopauses causes, you may benefit from changing your medication dosages. If you gain weight or experience big blood sugar changes, you may need your doctor to make adjustments.
Consider Help for Specific Menopause Symptoms
If you’re experiencing certain menopause symptoms, like hot flashes, you can seek out specific treatments. These treatments may help bring better balance to both diabetes and menopause management.
Ultimately, living with type 2 diabetes while going through menopause isn’t easy. But it doesn’t have to be frustrating or detrimental to your health. If you’re aware of the changes menopause can bring, and its increased risk for diabetes, you can tackle its effects head on.
Make sure to stay informed and up-to-date about what can happen during menopause. Whether you’re at risk for diabetes, living with diabetes, or worried about your health, staying informed will help you make the best decisions for your well being.
Marta Design / Shutterstock