You may be surprised to know that the hormones progesterone and oestrogen affect the ways in which your body’s cells respond to insulin - which is the hormone which moves glucose (sugar) from your bloodstream into your cells.
As you approach menopause, the level of these hormones falls dramatically, and this can bring about unpredictable changes. This is because lowered levels of oestrogen make your body more resistant to insulin, but lowered levels of progesterone improve your sensitivity to it.
These shifts mean that diabetes and menopause can complicate each other – for example, the onset of menopause can cause you to become insulin resistant. To understand this condition please read this blog post
How Menopause can put you at greater risk of type 2 diabetes
Apart from the effect of menopause on your insulin levels, as you enter this time several things happen which can increase your risk of contracting diabetes.
- Calories are burned less efficiently as your metabolism slows and this can lead to weight gain
- Weight gain tends to settle mostly around the waistline, and we know that a thickened waistline makes you more susceptible to type 2 diabetes. Diabetes.co.uk suggests that women of all ethnicities are more prone to the condition once their waistlines exceed 80cm or 31.5 inches.
- Hot flushes can have a negative affect on your sleep and this lack of sleep can also affect your blood sugar control
Why it’s important to increase your testing at this time.
Since your blood sugar levels may go up and down with the spikes and drops in oestrogen and progesterone during peri menopause, you’re advised to more frequently test your levels if you already have diabetes.
Testing is particularly important as it can be difficult to tell whether mood changes – which are often a key indicator of low blood sugar are actually a symptom of perimenopause.
This is the same for other signs of menopause – such as feeling dizzy, trouble concentrating or sweating all of which you may previously have associated with blood sugar which is too high or too low.
Keep a record of your glucose tests to discuss with a doctor as you may need to
- Change your medication - either in terms of dose or type (as some tablets may increase your risk of bone fracture at a time in your life when this is already a higher risk)
- Additionally, seek the advice of an endocrinologist in terms of your hormones
- Additionally, speak to a menopause specialist about the possible benefits of taking HRT
- Be regularly checked for blood pressure and cholesterol levels as both factors are important for controlling diabetes and may be negatively affected by the onset of menopause
- Take Vitamin D to protect against the increased risk of bone fracture caused by diabetes as well as by menopause.
You CAN take steps to better manage your menopause AND your diabetes
- Stay active, this will help to control your weight and your blood glucose more effectively
- Eat in a healthy way for the same reason
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol so that you take in less calories and are less likely to have hot flushes which give you sleepless nights
Does having diabetes affect the timing of your menopause?
You may have heard that the timing of your menopause can be affected by diabetes. Research in 2001 led to the belief that it can come about early if you have type 1 diabetes; but that if you have type 2 diabetes and are overweight your menopause could happen later as oestrogen drops more slowly in women.
However, research in 2014 – by which time more accurate diabetes technologies were in place – did not actually support that conclusion.
One year later research in India led to the conclusion that diabetes can accelerate reproductive aging and bring about premature ovarian failure.
This research looked at 600 women, 300 of which were diabetic. 212 of these women had an early menopause (at less than 45 years of age) 158 of these women were diabetic. The average age of menopause in women with diabetes was 44.65 years compared to 48.2 years in those without diabetes.
Clearly this is an area which requires more research to finally settle the question
Finally, don’t assume that you are entering menopause if you are tired, going to the loo a lot and are sweating you may actually have diabetes so please get tested at your local GP Practice.
I hope this has been helpful,