Diabetes and Menopause: Know What to Expect
Women with diabetes may face additional challenges during menopause. Knowing what to expect can help you manage the changes.
What is Menopause?
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles, typically between 45 and 55 years of age.
Perimenopause refers to the transition leading up to menopause. During perimenopause, women may experience1:
- Changes in mood –– irritability, depression, or mood swings
- Irregular periods
- Bone loss
- Changes in sexual function and desire
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Changes in cholesterol levels
- Bladder problems –– increased risk of urinary infections
What to Expect with Diabetes and Menopause
Perimenopause or menopause can affect your body in different ways, such as:
- Blood sugar changes — The hormones progesterone and estrogen affect how the cells in your body respond to insulin.2 Changes in these hormone levels may result in blood sugar changes. You could notice that you have more high blood sugars and more lows. More high blood sugars increase the risk of complications.
- More Frequent Infections — High blood sugar levels can increase the chances of vaginal and urinary tract infections.3 The drop in estrogen after menopause can make it even easier for yeast and bacteria to thrive in the vagina and urinary tract, increasing the risk.4
- Weight Gain — Gaining weight is common after menopause and could require adjusting diabetes medications.
- Sexual Difficulties — Vaginal dryness can occur after menopause. Diabetes has the potential to damage the nerves of the cells lining the vagina. This can interfere with the ability to feel aroused or orgasm.
- Sleep Issues — The hot flashes that come with perimenopause and menopause can make it hard to sleep at night. Without enough sleep, it’s harder to manage blood sugar levels.
Tips for Managing Diabetes During Menopause
Menopause may make it harder to manage your diabetes. However, there are tips you can follow to better manage both.
Check Blood Sugar Frequently:
Since hormones can make blood sugar levels fluctuate, you may need to check your levels more often. Keep a log of your readings. Those details can help your doctor decide if your medications need to be adjusted.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices:
Healthy choices are an important part of any diabetes treatment plan. Eat a diet that includes veggies, fruits, lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains. Stay active, aiming for around 30 minutes of activity daily.
A healthy diet and exercise plan also helps you manage your weight. Studies show that women who exercise and maintain their weight can often prevent high blood sugars and higher cholesterol during menopause.5
Ask Your Physician About Hormone Therapy:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help manage the symptoms of menopause like vaginal dryness, night sweats, and hot flashes. Some research shows that taking HRT may also improve insulin sensitivity.6
Remember that HRT does have some risks. Potential risks include blood clots, certain types of cancer, and stroke. Talk with your care team to find out if the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks for you
Get Screened for Heart Disease:
The changes that come with menopause often lead to weight gain. Weight gain can increase the risk of heart disease even more in women with diabetes. Talk to your physician about cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Both are essential for managing heart disease risk and diabetes.7