Diabetes and Menopause: Understanding The Risk
When hormone levels change, it seems like your whole body changes, doesn’t it?
This is especially true for women with diabetes who are entering the beginning stages of menopause, perimenopause. True still and again for pre-diabetic women entering the same life transition. Hormones have a whole lot to do with both menopause and diabetes, and it’s baffling at times to navigate new symptoms and identify what they are in your body, in addition to living your busy, awesome life.
A concern for the undiagnosed
In 2015, of the 30.3 million adults who had diabetes, 23.1 million were diagnosed, and the remaining 7.2 million were undiagnosed.
What will serve you through this is your awareness and attention to what is going on in your body.
If a new diagnosis of diabetes coincides with the onset of menopause, you may be navigating some similar symptoms. For instance, you may experience a symptom of foggy thinking both menopausally and diabetically. The element to zoom in on might be to determine if and/or when there is a difference in it being a diabetic symptom vs a menopause symptom. So much is new, and not much is fun.
Still, staying informed and aware of symptoms and changes in your body is where your power lies in making good choices and taking good care of yourself. We do recommend talking with your doctor and getting your blood sugar levels checked, especially if your risk is higher for diabetes.
A few of the main symptoms in common
- Frequent urination: In menopause the frequency for the need to pee can increase. Same with diabetes but for different reasons, mostly having to do with kidney function not being able to reabsorb the glucose normally when blood sugar is up. Instead, more urine is made, thirst increases, and so, more frequent peeing.
- Night sweats: Another common experience in menopause is night sweats. Ugh. In diabetes night sweats may be caused by low blood sugar levels, while in menopause a decline in estrogen to the hypothalamus in the brain can bring those suckers on and wake you up from your sweet sleep.
- Anxiety, mood swings, depression: Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, more during menopause, and still more likely for those women with diabetes. The hormone changes and pressures in life a woman experiences are just plain different from men. You deserve good care, excellent attention, and helpful, reliable information.
- Itchy dry skin: As estrogen levels drop in a woman’s body, so does the moisture content in the skin. Here comes the itchy, dry skin. In diabetes, dry skin is often attributed to high blood sugar and/or poor circulation. As skin is the largest organ of the body, it’s significant when it’s uncomfortable: from crackly, crusted feet to rough hands, to that most intimate, delicate vaginal tissue, moisture replenishment yields comfort.
- Urinary tract and vaginal infections: High blood sugar levels (yes, even pre-menopause) can contribute to UTI and vaginal infections. But wait, there’s more… a decline in estrogen makes it easier for bacteria and yeast (yep) to thrive in the vagina and/or urinary tract.
What else will help?
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or menopause (or not), there are a few things you can do to help your overall health until you talk with your doctor or check in with our telemed team (but please, do talk with a doc. Soon). What can you do? Self-care, support, processing, and testing.
- Circulate - Some increased blood flow and endorphins from mild exercise can make a world of difference in your blood sugar levels, improve your health and mindset, and aid in managing hot flashes, depression, or anxiety. Even a little regular movement will help you feel better… maybe even good. But don’t take our word for it… give it a go and see.
- Eat the good stuff - Nutrition is a big topic and the fuel you choose has a lot to do with regulating blood sugar, managing symptoms, even sleeping well when it comes to both menopause and diabetes. Where might you make even better choices around refined sugar, alcohol, and processed foods? When are you more willing to drink a little more water? It’ll make a difference.
- Levels? Check! - If your weight is changing, your symptoms are increasing in intensity or frequency, and you’re at a higher risk level for diabetes, it might be time to get blood sugar, cholesterol, and other levels checked with your doctor. Ask also about whether or not an adjustment to any existing medication levels might be needed.
- Menopausal support - Talk with trusted friends, family, and community about what’s going on in your body. What you’re experiencing is real and talking about it can really support you and help you make sense of all the changes. Another option, sign up for some specific menopause coaching support with a Health Coach who is a Registered Dietitian and a menopause expert. It’s a thing.
Your health journey is a precious and vibrant part of your life (and quality of life). The attention and care you take to feel better will serve you in both the long and short run.
We’d love to hear your experience - both the good and the challenging - around diabetes, pre-diabetes, menopause… life!
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