Menopause is the time in your life when your estrogen levels drop, your ovaries stop producing eggs, and your period ends. Typically, women go into menopause in their 40s or 50s. Type 2 diabetes usually starts
This change of life brings symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, and vaginal dryness, which can be hard to handle. Diabetes adds its own set of symptoms and risks, on top of menopause.
As you get into your 30s and beyond, your body makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate your periods. They also affect how your cells respond to insulin, the hormone that moves glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream into your cells.
As estrogen and progesterone levels go up and down during the transition to menopause, your blood sugar levels can also rise and fall. Uncontrolled high blood sugar can lead to diabetes complications like nerve damage and vision loss.
Some of the changes that occur in your body during menopause put you at greater risk of type 2 diabetes:
- Your metabolism slows and you don’t burn calories as efficiently, which can lead to weight gain.
- Much of the weight you gain is in your belly. Having more belly fat makes your body more resistant to the effects of insulin.
- Your body releases insulin less efficiently.
- Your cells don’t respond as well to the insulin you produce.
Diabetes can worsen some menopause symptoms and vice versa. For example, hot flashes make it harder to sleep. A lack of sleep can affect your blood sugar control.
Sometimes, the two conditions compound each other. Menopause causes vaginal dryness, which can make sex more painful. Diabetes can damage the nerves in the vagina, making it harder to feel pleasure and reach orgasm.
Here are eight tips to help you manage menopause when you have type 2 diabetes.
Fluctuating hormone levels can cause blood sugar swings. Check your blood sugar levels more often than usual. Keep a record of your readings to share with your doctor.
If your blood sugar rises because of hormone changes or weight gain, see the doctor who treats your diabetes. You may need to increase your medication dose or add another medication to keep your levels steady.
Eating well and staying active are always important for managing diabetes, but this is especially true during menopause. More weight gain during this time can make your diabetes harder to manage.
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low fat dairy. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes daily to prevent more weight gain and to manage your diabetes.
Cardiovascular disease is more common in people with type 2 diabetes. After menopause, your heart disease risk also rises.
It’s important to do everything you can to manage heart disease risks that you can control. Eat a healthy diet, exercise, lose weight if you’re overweight and your doctor recommends doing so, and quit smoking.
Also, check your blood pressure often. If it’s high, ask your doctor about lifestyle changes or medications to help lower it.
See your doctor for regular cholesterol checks. Take cholesterol-lowering medications if you need them to bring your levels into a healthy range.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help manage menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
HRT does come with risks, including stroke, blood clots, and cancers of the uterus and breast. Ask your doctor whether the benefits of taking HRT outweigh the risks based on your personal and family history of heart disease and cancer.
And the sooner you start, the better. Taking HRT early in menopause appears to be the safest.
Don’t give up on having a healthy love life. If you have vaginal dryness or hot flashes from menopause, and a lack of desire from diabetes, see your OB-GYN.
A vaginal lubricant or estrogen will ease dryness and make sex more comfortable. You might go on HRT if your doctor says it’s safe for you.
There are things you can do to prevent weight gain during menopause. Adjust your calorie intake and exercise to fit your new metabolism. See a dietitian for advice on how to lose weight if a doctor advises you to do so.
High blood sugar creates an environment that’s favorable to the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). The drop in estrogen during menopause further increases your risk for one of these infections.
If you have symptoms like an urgent need to go, burning when you pee, or foul-smelling urine, your doctor can test you for a UTI. You’ll be treated with an antibiotic if you test positive.
If you’re dealing with menopause and type 2 diabetes at the same time, there are things you can do to manage your symptoms.
Work with a healthcare team that includes your primary care doctor, OB-GYN, and an endocrinologist. Let your doctors know if you have any bothersome symptoms.
Keeping your diabetes and menopause symptoms under good control won’t just help you feel better. You’ll also prevent complications like heart disease, nerve damage, and vision loss.