Menopause plays a role in the control of diabetes, and diabetic women may need to modify their treatment during this stage of their lives for several reasons:
- Firstly, several changes related to menopause and aging occur during this period, such as an increase in total body fat, a decline in muscle mass and a redistribution of fat to the abdominal area.
- In addition, the loss of hormones during menopause, specifically estrogen and progesterone, can affect the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Consequently, the decline in these sex hormones can cause unexpected fluctuations in blood sugar levels and complicate diabetes control.
The impact of these menopause-related changes on blood sugar levels varies from one woman to another.
Tips for diabetes management during menopause :
- Check your blood sugar levels more frequently
- Exercise to counteract the loss of muscle mass, maintain your weight and blood sugar targets
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
Note: Do not confuse night sweats or disrupted sleep with symptoms of hypoglycemia. To avoid unnecessary carbohydrates intake, always measure your blood sugar level before treating hypoglycemia.
Diabetic women whose troublesome menopausal symptoms affect their quality of life can consult their doctor to discuss hormone therapy or other treatment options. Hormone therapy replaces the hormones that the body has stopped producing.
Diabetic women, like their non-diabetic counterparts, can take hormones (estrogen with or without progestin) to diminish the effects of menopause.
Research suggests that menopausal women, diabetic and non-diabetic alike, who take estrogen and progestin (combination therapy) have an increased risk of breast cancer, thrombophlebitis (blood clot), stroke and heart disease. The decision to take hormones should be discussed with a health care professional, with consideration given to a woman’s history of breast cancer, thrombophlebitis and stroke as well as the degree to which her menopause symptoms affect her quality of life.
Research and text: Diabetes Québec team of health care professionals
Metabolic Medicine Unit at Hôtel-Dieu du CHUM. (2013), Connaître son diabète pour mieux vivre, Montréal: Les Éditions Rogers limitée.
American Diabetes Association. (2014). Sexual health Online, found at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/women/sexual-health.html (consulted on May 23, 2014)