Don’t Sugar Coat It…Diabetes Effects Menopause Symptoms

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 16, 2014

The Effects of Menopause and Diabetes

Hormonal changes

The menopause, and the years leading up to it, is when women’s bodies gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone. These hormonal changes can affect blood sugar levels differently for each individual. Many women notice their blood sugar levels fluctuate more,. The hormonal changes as well as swings in blood sugar levels can contribute to mood changes, fatigue and hot flushes. Weight gain often occurs at menopause.  Any weight gain will increase insulin resistance which may cause the development of diabetes. And, in women who have diabetes, menopause itself, can wreak havoc on their diabetes control and they may have to adjust their diabetes medication.

Menopause means end of menstruation. It is defined as not having a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months in a row. The menopause may be natural or it may occur after a hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, with the removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy). The usual age for women to stop menstruating naturally is between 45 -55 years.

Signs and Symptoms of Menopause include:

  • Mood changes
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Depression and headaches
  • Irregular periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats

Other symptoms includes:  vaginal dryness, loss of sex drive and bladder problems.
These problems will be made worse by high blood sugar levels.

Does Menopause Increase Diabetes?

This question is difficult to answer, but it does look like estrogen and progesterone  may have something to do with it.  Also, of course, our age, weight and lifestyle plays an important part. As women start to go into menopause, changes in hormone levels can lead to swings in blood glucose levels. That is why it is so important for women to have their blood sugar checked regularly. It’s important for women to keep a record of all their readings and share it with their clinicians.  And, women should try to avoid gaining weight. If overweight, even modest weight loss can prevent or delay diabetes.

Menopause and diabetes are quite a challenge. Our risk as women increases as we age, especially in women over 50, and in those who have gained weight, or in those women do not stay active.  Don’t let menopause of diabetes take control of you.  It’s important to work closely with your clinician to manage both.

There’s also a lot you can do to help yourself, along with your clinician’s recommendations.   Here are some things you can do:

  • Lose weight
  • Control your blood sugar by eating regularly
  • Avoiding high sugar (=soda and candy) and processed foods
  • Lowering your cholesterol levels
  • Diet and exercise can be a tremendous help
  • Control your blood pressure

Diabetes is on the rise in the United States…Statistics should you should be aware of:

  • Prevalence: The prevalence rate for adults age 20 and older in 2012 was 12.3%, compared to 11.3% in 2010.
  • Undiagnosed: Of the 29.1 million, 21.0 million were diagnosed, and 8.1 million were undiagnosed.
  • Prevalence in Seniors: The percentage of Americans age 65 and older remains high, at 25.9%, or 11.8 million seniors (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
  • Prediabetes: In 2012, 86 million Americans age 20 and older had prediabetesa condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes and for heart disease and stroke. Other names for prediabetes are impaired glucose tolerance and impaired fasting glucose.X; this is up from 79 million in 2010. The percentage is now at 51% among those age 65 and older.

Deaths: Diabetes remains the 7th leading cause of death in the United States in 2010, with 69,071 death certificates listing it as the underlying cause of death, and a total of 234,051 death certificates listing diabetes as an underlying or contributing cause of death. Diabetes may be underreported as a cause of death.

Data from the National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014 (released June 10, 2014)

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism-the way your body uses digested food for growth and energy. The key feature of diabetes means that you have excess blood glucose (sugar) in your blood.

As we eat food is broken down into sugars (glucose) for energy.  The pancreas releases the hormone insulin.  The glucose needs insulin to get into your body’s cells where it will be used as a source of energy.  There are three main types of diabetes – type 1; type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 is commonly diagnosed in children and young adults. They don’t make enough insulin or no insulin at all, so they must take insulin every day. Type 2 is more common and you can get it at any age. Your body makes insulin; however, the insulin can’t do its job because there is a resistance to insulin, so glucose doesn’t get into the cells. Type 2 diabetes is more common in older people and in people who are overweight. Gestational diabetes sometimes occurs during pregnancy. It usually goes away when pregnancy is over but there is a greater chance of getting diabetes years later.

Are You At Risk for Diabetes?

Type 1 – the risk factors are unknown

Type 2 – Risk Factors:

  • Age (being older than 45)
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Family history (having mother, father, brother or sister with diabetes)
  • Race/ethnicity (African American, American Indian; Alaska native; Hispanic; Asian, American Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian have higher incidences)
  • Having a baby with a birth weight of more than 9 pounds
  • Having diabetes during pregnancy (gestational diabetes)
  • High blood pressure (140/90 mmHg or higher
  • High cholesterol (total cholesterol over 240 mg/dL)
  • Inactivity (exercising less than 3 times a week
  • Abnormal results in prior diabetes test
  • Having health conditions (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Smoking

Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms

  • Needing to pass urine often (including needing to get up at night)
  • Increased thirst, Dry mouth
  • Recurrent yeast infections, boils, or minor skin infections
  • Unexplained weight loss and muscle or weight gain
  • Extreme fatigue (Feeling generally tired and run down)
  • Visual problems
  • Loss of sensation in hands or feet
  • Poor blood circulation

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should be talk to your clinician.

What should you do to prevent diabetes?

  • Get tested. The American Diabetes Association recommends that you get tested every 3 years starting at age 45.  If you have risk factors or a family history of diabetes, you should get tested more frequently
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Eat a healthy well-balanced diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Only drink alcohol in moderation
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control (use links to your existing pieces!!)
  • Get moving at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each week (walking, dancing, cycling, or  swimming) and muscle training activities 3 days per week
  • Take hormone therapy to prevent diabetes?  Experts say no.  It has been shown that taking hormone therapy can reduce the risk of developing diabetes. However, hormone therapy should not be taken for that reason alone.  You should discuss taking hormone therapy with your clinician.
  • Talk to your clinician about other things you can do to help yourself. Remember, for many women, diabetes is preventable by lifestyle changes.

Long Term Risks of Diabetes if Undiagnosed of Uncontrolled:

  • Eye retinal damage (retinopathy)
  • Kidney damage that can lead to CKD (chronic kidney disease) and renal failure
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevation of cholesterol and triglycerides (which can increase risk of: heart attack)
  • Reduced circulation in limbs; poor healing and limb loss
  • Stroke
  • High risk pregnancy

Your Office Visit With Your Clinician

In preparation for your appointment , you should write down any symptoms you are experiencing and make a list of questions.

Some questions to ask:

  • How often should I monitor my blood sugar?
  • What changes should I make in my diet?
  • How much exercise should I get each day?
  • Will I need to take medication? If so, what kind and how much?
  • Do I need to take insulin?
  • What are the complications and symptoms of low blood sugar?
  • What are the complications and symptoms of high blood sugar?
  • Your clinician may refer you to an endocrinologist who specializes in hormonal disorders.
  • What specialists do I need to see?

You may also need to see a:

  • Dietitian
  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Podiatrist