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Menopause and Diabetes: More Complicated than Predicted!

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When a woman has diabetes and is approaching menopause, there are many questions that may arise. And rightfully so. Diabetes may present a challenge in itself, but when combined with the potential physical changes that menopause contributes, it becomes difficult to predict what new health challenges may present themselves. By understanding how menopause may impact the body, it is possible to gain some perspective of what to expect when the two collide, and what may be done about it.

How menopause can affect diabetes?
Menopause causes a rapid decline in estrogen levels. Estrogen plays a role in many of the body's functions. When there is a lack of this hormone in the body, the endocrine system is affected and the interference in the normal processes can occur.
Imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels can cause changes to occur in blood glucose levels. The way insulin is processed is perhaps one of the most profound ways that menopause can affect diabetes. Hormonal fluctuations make it more difficult to predict how insulin will react in the body. Blood sugar testing must be done more often to try to keep up with these rapid and unpredictable changes as variations outside of the usual range may occur.

When menopause can cause problems?
When blood sugar levels get out of control due to hormonal fluctuations, the risk of complications from diabetes are increased and other diseases might occur after menopause. The need for increasing insulin or other diabetes medicine dosages may occur.

Complications from weight gain
Weight gain is common during menopause. Although menopause in itself is only responsible for abdominal weight gain, the decreases in muscle mass that accompany the normal aging process can lead to a slower metabolism, less calories being burned and a tendency to gain weight. Obesity can result if measures are not taken to change eating and exercise habits. This can cause the need for yet more adjustments in insulin dosage.

Problems from other symptoms of menopause
Night sweats, hot flashes and insomnia may make it difficult to get the amount of quality rest when sleeping. Sleep deprivation, mood swings and other symptoms of menopause can impact blood sugar levels making them harder to predict and control.

What can be done to prevent health complications from diabetes during menopause?
One of the most important things that you can do to help control your diabetes during menopause, is to make the best lifestyle choices possible. Following the treatment plan that has been recommended by your health care provider is first and foremost. Maintaining the recommended intake of calories and sticking to a healthy and balanced diet is also vital. Keep your weight at a healthy level. If you are having problems in this area, your health care provider may be able to assist, or to refer you to a registered dietitian for tips that will help.

Get plenty of exercise and remain active. This can not only help you to maintain a healthy body weight, it can help you to avoid increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease during menopause. You may also want to consult with your health care provider about cholesterol lowering options as HDL (good cholesterol) usually decreases with menopause and LDL (bad cholesterol) has a tendency to increase.

Test your blood sugar regularly and be aware of any unusual changes that occur. This should be done both day and night. It is particularly important while your body is in a state of hormonal flux, and if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause that are moderate to intense.

Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended by your health care provider at this time. Although it is not routinely used as a preventative measure, if your symptoms are contributing to increased health risks, HRT is believed to be beneficial for some women with diabetes during menopause.

Conclusion
Diabetes combined with menopause presents a new set of challenges when it comes to the regulation of blood sugar. Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on the systems and processes of the body. While this volatile mixture can present challenges, there are many steps that can be taken to help lessen the risk of complications both during and after menopause. Making healthy lifestyle choices, maintaining a healthy weight, staying on top of blood sugar fluctuations and consulting your health provider about any insulin dosage adjustments can help you to better manage your diabetes during menopause.

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