Menopause is a normal part of life for most women. It can be hard to manage both menopause and type 2 diabetes, but it is possible. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go through the process.
What is menopause?
Menopause is a stage of life when a woman stops having her period, and it signals the end of her reproductive years. Most women go through menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, but it can occur earlier, too. Some women go through “sudden” menopause if they have their uterus or ovaries removed.
What happens during menopause?
Menopause may actually start long before a woman’s periods end. This stage of life is called perimenopause, and during this time, the ovaries start to make less estrogen. The ovaries eventually stop releasing eggs (meaning a woman can no longer get pregnant). Once a woman has stopped having her period for a year, she is in menopause. After that time, a woman is considered to be postmenopausal.
What are the symptoms of menopause?
Common menopause symptoms include:
- Hot flashes that may alternate with cold flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful intercourse
- Frequent urination
- Irregular periods
- Trouble sleeping
- Thinning hair
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Mood changes
It’s important to note that not all women will have all of these symptoms. Symptoms can also vary in terms of how severe they are, and how long they last.
How does menopause affect diabetes?
As if it weren’t hard enough to deal with the “change of life,” women with diabetes must face changes in their diabetes control as a result of menopause. For example:
- Blood glucose control: Changes in the hormones estrogen and progesterone may affect blood glucose levels, and make it harder to manage them.
- Confusing symptoms: Hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes as a result of menopause can also be symptoms of high or low blood glucose.
- Weight gain: Many women gain weight during menopause, and this can lead to higher blood glucose levels.
- Sleep problems: Night sweats and hot flashes can make it harder to get a good night’s sleep. A lack of sleep can wreak havoc with your blood glucose levels and appetite.
Other health concerns related to both menopause and diabetes include heart disease and osteoporosis. Heart disease is more common in women with diabetes than in women without the condition. Menopausal women with type 2 diabetes are also more likely to suffer bone fractures than menopausal women without diabetes.
There are steps that you can take to make both menopause and diabetes a little bit easier to manage.
- Focus on healthy foods. Make fruits and vegetables the center of your meal plan.
- Be active. Physical activity can play a big role in keeping your weight at a healthy level. It can also help you control your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure; reduce stress; and help you sleep better at night.
- Get enough sleep. While it’s easier said than done, do your best to aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
- Check your blood glucose regularly. This is important to help you sort out symptoms, and also learn if your diabetes medicines need to be adjusted.
- Talk with your healthcare provider about your medicines. These can include your diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure medicines.
- Address your menopausal symptoms. There are solutions to many common symptoms of menopause, but you need to work with your healthcare provider to find what will work best for you.
- Take time to de-stress. Menopause can be a stressful time for women who have diabetes. Practice stress relief by doing yoga, meditating, getting massages, or just breathing deeply. Research shows that these practices can do wonders for your health. If you feel particularly stressed, depressed, or anxious, seek professional help from a therapist, a support group, or online community.