Menstruation, Menopause & Diabetes

How can you manage diabetes during menopause?

What's menopause got to do with it?

Often referred to as "the change of life," menopause, too, can influence blood glucose levels. "The effects are less direct," says Dr. Petit, and it's more likely that women feel unwell because of menopausal symptoms, which can be quite severe in some women.

However, menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep problems, fatigue caused by lack of sleep, moodiness, short-term memory loss and generally not feeling great can be mistaken for low blood sugar. You don't want to correct them by consuming unnecessary extra calories (which could cause hyperglycemia and ultimately lead to weight gain), so it's important to determine whether fluctuating hormones or menopausal symptoms are at the root of your symptoms. Monitor your blood glucose levels closely and work with your doctor to develop a management plan.

What's more, the hormonal changes of menopause can affect a woman's sexual function, which may already be dampened in someone with diabetes. Lower levels of estrogen decrease the blood supply to the vagina, which in turn reduces vaginal lubrication and can make sex painful. In addition, falling hormone levels can contribute to decreased arousal. The majority of women can manage these symptoms without going on hormone replacement therapy, says Mario Skugor, MD, an endocrinologist with the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. However, "if you have severe symptoms that are interfering with your life, talk to your doctor to see if a hormone patch might be a good option for you," he advises.

As a woman gets older, and often around the time of menopause, she has a tendency to gain weight. "The closer you are to your ideal weight, the better you will be in terms of controlling your diabetes," says Dr. Petit. This applies whether you are in menopause or not, especially if you have type 2 diabetes. Moderate, healthy eating and increased physical activity can help you achieve a healthy weight

Menopausal women, too, should measure blood glucose levels frequently and keep a log of their levels. If you do make changes to your diet or exercise plan, be sure to inform your doctor, as losing weight and increasing exercise frequency could reduce your insulin needs.

With diabetes, maintaining tight control is always your best tack. Indeed, a woman who reins in her condition will be able to better recognize when vacillating hormones are affecting blood sugar. And good news: "If a woman with diabetes learns about her body's fluctuations and adjusts her insulin accordingly, she shouldn't have to face additional problems each month and at menopause," says Dr. Skugor.

Reviewed by Nikheel Kolatkar, M.D.

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