When perimenopause begins the outcome for the individual can be either easy and smooth or it can be disruptive at best, and destructive at worst. There are so many differing symptoms many, of which, we still do not know about! Therefore, it is easy to focus solely on menopause and forget about all other conditions.
Menopause will occur regardless of other pre-existing conditions, and it is easy to become focused on menopause and disregard other issues. However, monitoring all conditions can lead to a healthier and improved quality of life.
One such condition is Diabetes Mellitus. Approximately 4.3million people live with Diabetes in the UK, of those, approximately 44% are women.
What are the different types of Diabetes?
There are 2 main types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes is a chronic condition where the body’s own immune system destroys the body’s ability to produce Insulin. As a result, the individual can no longer metabolise sugars naturally which can cause other severe problems. It is a lifelong condition generally managed by insulin injections.
Type 2 Diabetes is far more common than type 1 and is linked to lifestyle problems. Poor diet, obesity, smoking, etc can limit the body’s ability to produce insulin in amounts enough to metabolise sugar leading to severe problems. The condition can be managed with lifestyle changes, alone, but often requires oral medication or Insulin injections, as well.
How do you Manage Menopause Alongside Diabetes?
When the hormone levels drop in peri/menopause it can disrupt the balance of blood sugar levels making Diabetes management more difficult although the exact mechanisms of the relationship between Oestrogen/Progesterone and Diabetes management are not fully understood yet.
In most individuals Hormone Replacement Therapy, (HRT) is a safe treatment for the management of menopause.
For individuals with Type 2 Diabetes, there is some evidence to indicate it is beneficial for their menopausal management, however, research data is limited for those with Type 1, but it is believed that the benefits are likely to outweigh any risks. Each individual should be assessed considering other health issues, current medications, etc.
What Happens during Menopause if I Have Diabetes?
There are ways an individual with both conditions can help themselves. As fluctuating/low hormone levels can disrupt the levels of sugar in the blood it is important to monitor blood sugars more often and act on any issues as soon as possible. Request more regular HbA1c blood tests to track any issues early and always attend regular reviews of Diabetes and menopause.
Observing symptoms is vital as some symptoms experienced in menopause can mimic those indicating fluctuating blood sugar levels, e.g., hot flushes can be menopausal or a symptom of low blood sugar, therefore check blood sugar levels to rule out Diabetic problems.
Diabetes, like menopause, can exacerbate risk for heart problems and bone health therefore maintaining a healthy diet high in fibre, fruit, and vegetables, low in processed food and refined sugar. Taking vitamin D supplements, especially in winter months, will help maintain bone health.
Increasing physical activity, stopping smoking and limiting alcohol intake will help manage menopause symptoms and help keep blood sugar levels within ideal ranges, and liaise with Diabetic Nurses and GPs as soon as problems arise.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help both conditions and ensuring vigilance of blood sugar levels will help prevent long-term issues resulting from poorly controlled Diabetes from occurring.
If you have access to myTamarin virtual support with your employer and would like to discuss any concerns around Menopause book a 1-1 appointment with a specialist at myTamarin via your company-specific landing page or app.
Anon, (2023) How many people in the UK have Diabetes? www.diabetes.org.uk
NHS, (2023) Diabetes. www.nhs.co.uk
Anon, (2023) Menopause and Diabetes. Www.diabetes.org.uk
In the next article in our Menopause and Chronic Conditions series, Moira looks into epilepsy and menopause.Read post