Women definitely usually notice an increase in fat at the menopause, usually around the middle, and any increased weight can be a risk factor for diabetes. Menopause changes that are linked to diabetes risk, and increase potential increase in symptoms if already diabetic, can include the following:
• Changes in blood sugar level. Both oestrogen and progesterone affect how your cells respond to insulin. At menopause, changes in your hormone levels can trigger fluctuations in your blood sugar level. If you are already diabetic, then at menopause you may notice that your blood sugar level is more variable and less predictable than before. If your blood sugar gets out of control, you have a higher risk of diabetes complications.
• Weight gain. Many women gain weight during the menopausal transition and retain the extra weight after menopause. This can increase the need for insulin or oral diabetes medication.
• Infections. Even before menopause, high blood sugar levels can contribute to urinary and vaginal infections, which is why many women report an increase in thrush at this time.
• Sleep problems. A most frequent ‘visitor’ at menopause are the hot flushes and night sweats that can keep you up at night. Unfortunately this also has a knock on effect as sleep deprivation can make it tougher to manage your blood sugar level.
• Sexual problems. Diabetes can damage the nerves of the cells that line the vagina. This can interfere with arousal and orgasm. Vaginal dryness, another common symptom of menopause, may compound the issue by causing pain during sex so lubrication with natural hormones is important.
Diabetes and menopause: What you can do
Whether you already have diabetes, or are at risk, there’s plenty you can do to better manage diabetes and menopause.
• Make healthy lifestyle choices. It’s not news, but eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are the cornerstone of dealing with diabetes. Also stress will impact every area of your health, so if that is an issue find ways to start gradually reducing or dealing with as best you can.
• Measure your blood sugar frequently. At menopause diabetes checks are often suggested by your doctor, and if already diagnosed then you may need to check your blood sugar level more often than usual during the day, and occasionally during the night. It is very valuable to keep a log of your blood sugar readings and symptoms to fine tune any treatment or lifestyle changes you may need to make.
• Keep your doctor informed so if your average blood sugar level increases, together with the log of your readings it will help you both decide if you need a medication change. This is particularly true if you gain weight or reduce your level of physical activity.
• Look for ways to lower bad cholesterol as although statins and other medications are often suggested it can be very helpful first to address the factors under your control such as diet and exercise.
• Deal with your menopausal symptoms. as you don’t have to put up with hot flushes, vaginal dryness, decreased sexual response or other menopausal symptoms because help is available. Bioidentical hormones are effective for menopause symptoms, though if you have vaginal atrophy that may need some specialised treatment.
• Don’t let weight gain creep up on you as it is much easier to start dealing with it when it is just a few pounds.although statins and other medications are often suggested it can be very helpful first to address the factors under your control such as diet and exercise.
• Deal with hormone imbalance and oestrogen dominance as that is the best first step for overall good health.