Menopause can be a challenge, especially for women with diabetes. Discover what to expect during menopause and the years preceding it. Find out simple ways to comfortably get through this natural and inevitable time in your life.
- Menopause occurs after your periods subside for one full year. Hormone levels can fluctuate during the peri-menopause and menopausal years. This can also cause fluctuations in your blood sugar levels because the hormones progesterone and estrogen have an impact on how cells respond to insulin. Use blood glucose meters to check your blood sugar regularly. Be aware of the symptoms of menopause that are similar to those associated with diabetes, such as fatigue, hunger, sweating and bloating.
- Some women gain weight during the transition into menopause and during the years following it. Discuss weight gain with your doctor and whether you need changes to your insulin or diabetes medication dosages. The weight gain is often deposited around the waist area which also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes (If you do not already have it). Your LDL cholesterol levels may rise so consider talking to your physician about statin drugs. Eat a well-balanced diet with lean meat, low-fat dairy, whole grains and plenty of vegetables and fruit. Avoid processed or refined foods and choose whole foods. Beneficial foods include legumes, whole grains and flaxseed. Fit exercise into your daily routine. Take a daily walk with the dog or a neighbor. Use the stairs rather than the elevator, park further away from your errands. Exercise will benefit your blood sugars and possible weight gain during the time of menopause.
- Blood sugars can increase during menopause which can lead to vaginal and urinary tract infections. Drink water throughout the day, test your blood sugar regularly and talk to your doctor about better ways to control it. Your estrogen levels tend to plummet after menopause. This creates an ideal situation for yeast to grow in the vagina and urinary tract. Be aware of the symptoms of infections and report them immediately to your health care team. The symptoms may include frequent urination, pain or burning during urination, dark urine that is bloody or cloudy, pain during intercourse, discharge with an unpleasant odor and excessive itching in the vaginal area. Talk to your physician about taking a cranberry supplement and keeping OTC suppositories such as Monistat at home for emergencies.
- Some women experience night sweats and hot flashes during menopause. This can interrupt sleep and leave you feeling sleep deprived. A lack of sleep can also make it more difficult to keep your blood sugar in check. Ask your doctor about ways to help you reduce hot flashes and get to sleep each night. Inquire if taking melatonin, a hormone that affects other hormones and is connected with sleep, would help. To help with hot flashes, stay out of warm areas and use an air conditioner or ceiling fan to cool down. Place a cold compress on your face to help bring your temperature down. Place an ice cube under your tongue to stay cool. Alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods and stress can trigger hot flashes and may need to be avoided. Wear light layers of clothing so you can take them off as you need to cool down. Try practicing deep breathing techniques to get through hot flashes and sweating. Talk to your doctor about possible temporary hormone supplements.
- Intercourse can become painful during menopause and the years that follow. A common symptom of menopause is vaginal dryness. Additionally, diabetes can damage the nerves in the lining of the vagina. If you have discomfort during intercourse, discuss it with your doctor. Certain types of vaginal lubricants may help. Explore the medical options that are available to you. For those who experience pain during intercourse, vaginal estrogen therapy can be beneficial. Work with a team of health care specialists, such as a dietitian to help you avoid weight gain and a diabetes nurse educator to help you learn more menopause and diabetes.
- Your moods can change quickly during menopause due to hormone fluctuations. Regular exercise can help boost your mood and keep your weight in check. Try exercising one or two hours after you eat to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Choose exercises you enjoy, such as swimming or going for a bike ride. Find ways to reduce stress, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga and Tai chi. It can also be helpful to socialize, talk to a friend on the phone or pursue some of your favorite hobbies. If you continue to have ongoing mood swings or feelings of depression, discuss them with your doctor and see if it would be beneficial to talk to a counselor.
Menopause is one of the natural transitions in life and women with diabetes can get through it without serious health issues. A balanced diet, regular sleep, blood sugar control, stress reduction, ongoing exercise and knowing your body’s reactions can help. Work with your health care team to get through menopause as smoothly as possible.