Sometimes I feel like reaching midlife – and, thus, menopause – is like walking through a minefield. At the far end, I’ve placed a picture of myself, happily enjoying all the things I want to do in my 70s and 80s. But to get there, I (along with every other woman) have to walk carefully through the field of life without “detonating” a health condition that could lead to other health issues.
One of those mines is type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that changes the way the body metabolizes glucose. Step on this mine and a middle-age woman’s health can take a major hit.
For instance, a new longitudinal study out of Louisiana looked at type 2 diabetes and stroke. This study involved 10,876 men and 19,278 women who already had developed type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that the participants had 2,949 strokes within seven years of the start of the study. Their analysis found that there may be an association between type 2 diabetes and the risk of stroke among women. In fact, depending on how well their blood sugar was controlled, the female participants had between a 19-42 higher risk of stroke than women who did not have diabetes. Furthermore, diabetic women who are older than 55 and who have poor control of blood sugar may have an even greater risk of a stroke. Men, however, don’t have this same association.
So let’s talk about diabetes and our midlife transition. The North American Menopause Society pointed out that researchers don’t know if going through menopause increases women’s risk of developing diabetes. While changing hormone levels may play a part, the aging process and gaining weight also cause older women to be more susceptible to this condition. The American Diabetes Association also warns that women who have diabetes are at risk of going into menopause prematurely. Additional research indicates that women who are diabetic are more likely to develop eating disorders than women who don’t have this condition. Diabetic women also have an increased risk for depression.
The symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst.
- Increased hunger.
- Weight loss.
- Blurred vision.
- Slow-healing sores or frequent infections.
- Darkened skin located in the armpits and neck, which may be a sign of insulin resistance.
There are several lifestyle choices that you can make to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes or halt the progression if you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes. These choices include:
- Exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity will make a difference. You can break up this exercise period into three 10-minute intervals that are spread throughout the day.
- Eat a healthy diet. Consume lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. In addition, opt for foods that are low fat and low calorie.
- Lose some of your excess weight. Just by losing 5 percent of your body weight, you can reduce your risk; a weight loss of 10 percent is even better. In reducing your weight, focus on healthy choices that can become life-long habits.
- Don’t use hormone replacement therapy as a way to prevent diabetes. The North American Menopause Society points out that while this therapy can help you manage the symptoms of menopause, assist with diabetes prevention and limit diabetes complications, it also does increase the risk for stroke. The American Diabetes Association also warns that taking estrogen can increase the risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer. If you want to take hormone replacement therapy, talk to your doctor about starting it as you go through this transition or soon after you have your last menstrual period. Many experts recommend taking the lowest dosage of hormone replacement therapy for the shortest period possible.
At this time of life, it’s really important to focus on your health and to work with your doctor to maintain your health. Avoiding the minefield of diabetes should be high on your list to live a long and healthy life!
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Diabetes Association. (ND). Women.
Mayo Clinic. (ND). Type 2 diabetes.
The North American Menopause Society. (ND). Diabetes hits women hard at menopause: Beat it back.
Zhao, W., et al. (2014). Sex differences in the risk of stroke and HbA1c among diabetic patients. Diabetologia.
Published On: March 03, 2014