As of 2021, more than 38.4 million Americans, roughly 11.6 percent of the population, had diabetes, according to figures from the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Furthermore, some research suggests that diabetes tends to affect women the hardest, especially those in their midlife. Diabetes is considered to be the 6th biggest cause of death for women aged 45 to 54, and 4th largest among those females aged 55 to 64.
There have been varying opinions on whether menopause affects diabetes, however, some experts believe that the years leading up to menopause, usually perimenopause, and menopause can have some effect on women living with diabetes.
While available literature is still somewhat limited, understanding the effect menopause can have on diabetes, and vice versa can help you and others better manage the effects and any near-term complications.
The Link Between Diabetes and Menopause
As is the case with menopausal women, estrogen and progesterone tend to decrease during menopause, which in turn can make it harder for your cells to respond to insulin. This could lead to further complications with your body having trouble regulating blood sugar levels, meaning that your body will have a harder time adjusting to sudden fluctuations.
Again, the type of diabetes a person has won’t make much of a difference when in your midlife or transitioning into menopause. A person might be required to adjust diabetes medication, or refrain from using specific hormonal medication to treat menopausal symptoms.
Menopause's Onset and Diabetes Types
Diabetes mellitus is a group of diseases that can affect the way in which your body breaks down the sugar, or glucose found in your blood. Type 1 Diabetes can typically develop at any time in a person’s life, however it’s usually more common among children and adolescents. Type 2 Diabetes can form at any age, but is typically found among people aged 40 and older.
Regardless of whether a person may have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, this disease can often make it harder for your body to regulate sugar, often leading to an increase in blood sugar content levels. The caveat is that having too much sugar present in your blood can cause other near and long-term health issues.
Some myths claim perimenopause may cause Type 2 diabetes, however this has not yet been clinically proven. Neith perimenopause or menopause can cause diabetes. However, hormonal changes during the time leading up to menopause may make it harder for your body to regulate blood sugar levels, and can lead to the possibility of weight gain.
Weight gain, especially around the abdomen may cause other complications, including high blood pressure, which are both high risk factors for Type2 diabetes. Other things such as age, genetics, and ethnicity may further play a role in the likelihood of developing diabetes around midlife.
Take A Look At Does Menopause Increase Risk for Type 2 Diabetes?:
Effects on Menstrual Cycles and Symptoms of Menopause
Experts suggest that diabetes may have an effect on women’s menstrual cycles. In some instances, women might experience irregular or longer-than-normal periods. The absence of periods is another possibility.
Irregular periods may be defined as periods that tend to be closer than 21 days or longer than 35 days apart. Typical flow during a menstrual period will usually last between three to seven days, although in the case of women with diabetes, this might be longer than a week.
According to one study, researchers found that the association of irregular and long menstrual cycles might have a link to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. This link however, was more commonly prevalent in overweight women, or those that had less frequent physical activity, such as exercise, or consumed a low-quality diet.
Managing Diabetes During Menopause
Having to manage diabetes during menopause can be a challenging time that comes with a series of complications. Fortunately, there are different things you can try to help make the process feel less tumultuous.
Strategies for Blood Glucose Control
Fluctuating hormone levels might require you to adjust your diabetes medication. This might require you to visit your healthcare provider for assistance and guidance on possible adjustments. Additionally, you might need to check your blood sugar levels more frequently and share the information with your healthcare provider for further evaluation.
Consider the type of food you consume on a regular basis. Experts advise that women with diabetes and menopause limit their intake of sugary foods, including any processed foods or those containing high quantities of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests that avoiding red and processed meats, salty food, or refined carbohydrates may help to manage blood glucose levels more effectively.
Diet and Lifestyle Adjustments
A healthy and balanced diet needs to form part of any person’s lifestyle, especially menopausal women who have diabetes. Certain lifestyle changes may include exercising more often, including things such as cycling, jogging, walking, or high-intensity workouts into your weekly or daily exercise routine.
Other things such as stress management may help alleviate discomfort caused by menopausal symptoms. Things such as yoga, mindful meditation, or cognitive behavioral therapy can help manage stress levels or the discomfort of symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, or weight.
Additionally, women are strongly advised to minimize the intake of alcohol, or consume below the average weekly allowance, and quitting smoking can help to improve overall health and well-being.
Hormonal Changes and Diabetes Control
During menopause, women may experience fluctuations in hormonal levels, including the decline of estrogen and progesterone during perimenopause. Once a woman enters menopause, and then later postmenopause, estrogen levels will begin to rapidly decline, while testosterone levels will either increase or continue to fluctuate.
Insulin Sensitivity and Hormonal Fluctuations
In one research study, experts have found that cyclical fluctuations in hormonal levels during the menstrual cycle may be associated with varying metabolic control. This could lead to a further increase in circulating insulin, and the reduction in circulating glucose and triglycerides.
While further evidence is required to better understand the association between insulin sensitivity and hormonal fluctuations, some researchers expect there to be fluctuations in insulin during the menstrual cycle.
The Role of Estrogen and Progesterone
During menopause, and normal menstrual cycles, both estrogen and progesterone levels tend to fluctuate. This may have an effect on insulin levels and blood sugar levels in women with diabetes. The effect would be that it could be harder for the body to maintain a healthy blood glucose level, and might put women with Type 2 diabetes at higher risk of developing other complications.
Health Risks and Complications
Understanding the health risks and complications of diabetes during menopause can help prevent near and long-term health issues.
Cardiovascular Disease and Type 1 Diabetes
There is some research that suggests the presence of coronary calcifications, otherwise known as coronary artery disease in people with Type 1 diabetes. These complications can lead to impaired myocardial function, otherwise known as a heart attack, and further lead to cardiac abnormalities or heart disease.
Weight Gain, Osteoporosis, and Other Health Issues
When taking insulin, a person may start to put on body weight, however, this may largely be impacted by the quantities of insulin that you are required to take and your diet. This could further mean that you might need to consider the type of diet you follow and consult with an expert on developing a high-quality meal plan.
People with Type 1 diabetes, may have the risk of developing osteoporosis. This is due to the interference of bone cell production, and often increasing the risk of bones becoming more fragile.
In one study, researchers found that people living with Type 1 diabetes have an almost seven times higher chance of fracturing their hip compared to someone without diabetes.
Sexual Health and Diabetes in Menopausal Women
There are instances where natural menopause may affect women’s sexual activity, including sex drive.
Libido and Arousal Challenges
Declining estrogen levels can make it harder for women to become sexually aroused, and may cause further distress within their relationship with their partner. This is however a natural occurrence, and some experts suggest that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help to improve libido and sexual arousal in women during menopause.
Treatments for Sexual Dysfunction
Non Medical treatment:
- Trying a vaginal lubricant during intercourse may help to alleviate discomfort caused by vaginal dryness.
- Consult with an expert regarding possible therapies that can help improve sexual performance, this includes things such as counseling.
- Try to adjust your lifestyle and diet habits.
- Practice good and open communication with your partner.
- Consult with a healthcare provider to prescribe you hormone replacement therapy.
- Try using a dietary supplement to help improve and regulate vaginal health.
- Consider trying an estrogen-based medication, either ospemifene or flibanserin.
- Avoid combining various medications during menopause.
Research and Future Directions
Investigating Menopause's Effect on Diabetes Risk
Menopause remains a highly under-studied area that requires further investigation to help researchers and women better understand the possible influence menopause can have on diabetes.
Better research will help experts determine the importance of various treatments and therapies and the influence new drug development can have on people’s lives in the long term.
New Therapies and Treatments in Development
Innovative technology is helping researchers develop new therapies and treatments. This can be an encouraging step forward, ensuring that people can have access to the necessary treatment options. More than this, advancements in the field of drug development will ensure that new treatments are more effective and help improve people’s longevity.
Can Menopause Cause High Blood Sugar?
There is some evidence that suggests declining estrogen levels during menopause, and fluctuating hormones throughout the perimenopause and menopause stage may cause the body to become less responsive to insulin. This could further lead to symptoms of high blood sugar, which can cause further complications.
What Are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance in Menopause?
Some symptoms of insulin resistance may include a decrease in energy levels, weight gain, or difficulty concentrating. This could however be different for each person, and insulin resistance may often be linked to lifestyle conditions.
The link between diabetes and menopause requires further investigation. Through proper analysis, new discoveries can help fast-track the development of improved medication and treatment options for women.
Until then, the most important thing any person living with diabetes can do is to remain informed and consult with their healthcare provider.
For women approaching menopause, consider talking to a healthcare provider about possible treatment options, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and what other types of lifestyle and diet changes a person can make to help lessen the burden of diabetes and menopause discomfort.