During menopause, the monthly menstrual cycle ends and a woman’s body goes through a variety of changes. Women with diabetes need to be aware of these changes and some of the challenges that might go with them. Discover simple ways to feel comfortable during this natural phase of your life and stay healthy.

Hormonal Changes

Most women easily recognize the hormonal changes that occur during your menstrual cycle. During menopause, there are changes in the hormone levels of progesterone and estrogen. This can affect how your body responds to insulin. As your menstrual cycle slows down, these hormones can be unstable. Higher levels of estrogen can improve insulin sensitivity. Conversely, as progesterone levels rise, insulin resistance may occur. This can cause blood sugar fluctuations. It is important to monitor your blood sugar regularly and record the results to look for patterns.

Talk to your health care team about extreme highs or lows and whether changes in your medications and management plan need to be made. Be aware that some of the symptoms of menopause resemble those of diabetes, such as bloating, sweating, and fatigue. Often low sugar symptoms may mimic menopause such as headaches, dizziness, irritability and weakness. Check blood sugars with a glucose monitor to see if it is related to menopause or low blood sugars. Always be prepared with glucose tablets if it is hypoglycemia.

Weight Gain

Some women gain weight before and during their menstrual cycles due to hormonal changes. This can have an impact on blood sugar levels and diabetes, especially when the weight builds up around your belly. Belly fat causes insulin resistance which makes it more difficult for your insulin to work. Discuss your medication needs with your doctor as some women may need more insulin. Have your cholesterol checked to see if your LDL levels are up and talk to your doctor about prescribing statins. Your LDL level should be at 100mg/dl or below. Statins often cause some memory loss which is also a symptom of menopause so it may be a difficult time to recognize which condition is causing the problem.

Make healthy lifestyle changes to shed pounds and feel more energized. Choose whole foods rather than processed ones that have added sugars, salt, and fats your body doesn’t need. Bake, broil, steam, and boil foods rather than frying them. Select lean meats and fish. Eat whole grains that are brown rather than white. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over frozen or processed products. Consier low-fat dairy products instead of products with extra fat.

Get active and move at least 30 minutes every day. Take short, 10-minute walks after breakfast, lunch, and dinner to include a half hour of exercise into your day. Outsmart yourself by looking for the furthest parking spot from your destination rather than the closest one to walk more. Rediscover childhood joys such as biking or jumping around to your favorite music. Purchase DVDs and exercise in the comfort of your own home. Find classes online such as seated yoga or gentle stretching classes.

The idea is to keep moving. An added benefit of regular exercise is it boosts your mood. Look for classes that have physical and mental benefits such as yoga and Tai Chi. Make sure you purchase new exercise clothing that fits properly during this phase so you have no excuse to miss out on exercise. You will need comfortable, sturdy and cushioned walking shoes that fit properly to prevent foot problems. Have a well fitted bathing suit and pool shoes on hand in case you choose pool classes. Make no excuses! Lacking exercise clothing is often an excuse to stay away from becoming active.

Menopause Mood Swings

Moodiness, anxiety and irritability are symptoms of menopause as well as high or low blood sugars. Monitor your blood sugar levels regularly to determine whether these feelings are associated with menopause or blood sugar variations. Learn stress management strategies to reduce feelings of moodiness. This may include meditation, deep breathing exercises, counting to 10, and anger management classes. Learning to calm down will be a bonus to both of these conditions. Socializing and laughing are instant mood boosters. Join a club, volunteer your time, and consider taking a laughter yoga class. If feelings of anxiety or depression continue after trying these techniques, talk to a doctor or counselor.

Over Heating

Woman Going Through Menopause

Night sweats and hot flashes are symptoms often associated with menopause and low blood sugars. You should test blood sugars to rule out blood sugar fluctuations and treat with glucose if needed. People with diabetes need seven to eight hours of sleep each night to help keep their blood sugar levels under control as well as keep cortisol levels in check. A lack of sleep can make your blood sugar levels rise, cause fatigue, confusion and irritation. Find ways to unwind and stay cool when you go to bed. Adjust the temperature in the room where you sleep and turn down the lights, which can also add heat to the room. Try blackout shades or keep the room as dark as possible.

Wear breathable underwear and light layers of nightwear that can be taken off as needed. Put breathable layers of sheets and blankets on your bed that can be removed if you get warm. Use a fan or air conditioner in your bedroom. Put a hand fan by your bedside. Consider a pillow with cooling fabric on one side. Place a cool compress on your face to bring down your temperature or put an ice cube under your tongue. Try to avoid caffeine, spicy foods, exercise and alcohol for at least three hours before bedtime. Deep breathing techniques can help you get through hot flashes until they subside. Talk to your doctor about possible ways to reduce hot flashes and sweats and get to sleep such as taking melatonin, sleeping aids or hormone supplements.

Figure Out What’s Going on Down There

When your blood sugars rise during menopause and your estrogen levels get lower it can lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections. This becomes the ideal situation for bacteria and yeast to grow in your urinary and vaginal tract. Symptoms of these problems might include itching, painful or burning sensations during urination, frequent urination, dark urine that is cloudy or bloody, discharge with a distinctive odor, feeling like you never empty your bladder and painful intercourse. If you have these symptoms visit your doctor or an outpatient clinic. They will require a urine sample and then prescribe antibiotics and spasm relief medication for a urinary tract infection.

Discuss ways to lower the risk of future infections such as taking cranberry supplements, drinking diet cranberry juice, wearing cotton underwear, taking showers instead of baths and drinking more water throughout the day. Yeast infections can be treated with OTC suppositories such as Monistat. Keeping blood sugars well controlled is the best way to prevent either of these infections. Beyond developing yeast infections, intercourse may become painful during menopause and the years that follow due to hormonal changes and thinning of the vaginal tissue. For some women, diabetes may damage the nerves that line the vagina. Talk to your doctor about estrogen therapy, vaginal lubricants, and other methods that might help you enjoy relations again.

Menopause is a natural transition that occurs in a woman’s life and women with diabetes can get through it with minimal problems. Lifestyle habits including controlling blood sugars, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet, sleeping regularly, and exercising daily make a difference in how menopause may affect you. Work with your health care team to help you manage menopause and diabetes with ease.