Risk of Diabetes Increases as Women Go Through Menopause

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    Reaching middle-age and going through menopause cause quite the change in women’s life. Some middle-age women are really thankful for those changes (“Hooray! No more worrying about my period or getting pregnant!) However, some of the changes to your body caused by aging can set you up for big problems – like developing type 2 diabetes – not too far down the road.


    The North American Menopause Society points out that women who are going through the menopausal transition often are hit with a diagnosis of diabetes. “It’s hard to separate the effects of menopause from the effects of age and weight,” the society’s website states. “But it does look like hormones do have something to do with it. If you’re a woman over age 50, you’re especially vulnerable, and women pay a heavy price for the disease.’ That’s because women who have diabetes lose more years of life than men with this condition do. Diabetes ranks number 6 in the list of diseases that kill women between the ages of 45 and 54 and number 4 for women between the ages of 55 and 64. Diabetes also increases middle-aged women’s risk of heart disease, stroke, blindness, lower limb amputation, kidney disease and nerve disease.

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    Diabetes is believed to affect 10 percent of U.S. adults in the United States; by 2050, that percentage could be 33 percent. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is most common in obese people who are over the age of 40. Furthermore, more than 33 percent of all U.S. adults and 50 percent of those who are over the age of 65 have pre-diabetes. Risk factors for diabetes include age, weight, a family history, being a specific ethnicity (Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander), high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, abnormal cholesterol levels and inactivity.


    So what can you do to prevent type 2 diabetes? A new study suggests that you can start taking preventative action immediately by moving to a Mediterranean diet. This study involved 3,541 women and men between the ages of 55 and 88 who did not have diabetes. These participants were randomly assigned to eat one of three diets. One group ate Mediterranean diet plus approximately 50 milliliters of extra virgin olive oil daily. A second group ate a Mediterranean diet plus roughly 30 rams of mixed nuts daily. These diets focused on increased consumption of beans, fish, fruits and vegetables and avoidance of red meat, processed meat, butter and sweets. The third group followed a low-fat diet.


    Approximately four years later, the researchers found that 273 participants had developed diabetes. Eighty of these participants were in the group that consumed the Mediterranean diet and extra virgin olive oil while 92 were eating the Mediterranean diet and nuts. The remaining 101 participants were eating the low-fat diet. The researchers didn’t find major changes of body weight, waist circumference and physical activity among the groups.


    What other steps can you take to lower your risk? The Mayo Clinic and NAMS recommend the following:

    • Get tested for diabetes every three years, starting when you reach the age of 45. You especially need to do this if you are overweight.
    •  Talk to your doctor about hormone therapy. “Although it is clear that HT can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, that shouldn’t be the reason you start taking it,” the NAMs reports, adding that hormone therapy also can increase the risk of stroke.
    • Exercise. Along with diet, this component offers a healthy lifestyle that has been proven to prevent diabetes. NAMS points to a study that fund that modest but focused lifestyle changes did more than drugs or standard advice. THe Mayo Clinic pointed out that just losing 5-10 percent of your body weight can make a difference in reducing your risk.
    • Limit alcohol intake.
    • Increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids by eating fatty fish or plant-based sources.
    • Women who have osteoporosis may actually cut their need for insulin by taking bisphosphonate medication.


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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:


    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Type 2 diabetes.


    Salas-Salvado, J., et al. (2014). Does the Mediterranean diet prevent diabetes? Annals of Internal Medicine.


    The North American Menopause Society. (ND). Diabetes hits women hard at menopause; Beat it back.

Published On: January 10, 2014