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Diabetes and the Menopause: What you need to know 

Embarking on the menopausal journey is a significant life event for every woman, and it becomes even more complex for those managing diabetes. Fluctuating hormone levels during menopause can impact insulin responsiveness, potentially complicating diabetes management. Aly Dilks, our resident menopause expert and registered nurse also holds a MSC in Diabetes so understands how to manage this consideration for your menopausal consultations. 

Understanding the Link Between Menopause and Diabetes.

For the estimated five million people in the UK managing diabetes, the menopausal transition can introduce additional hurdles. Changes in oestrogen levels may render the body less responsive to insulin, leading to erratic blood sugar levels. The redistribution of body fat, a common occurrence during and after menopause, can contribute to insulin resistance, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, accounting for about 90% of cases in the UK, results from insufficient insulin production or ineffective insulin utilisation, leading to elevated blood glucose levels. For those already diagnosed, the menopausal phase can introduce unexpected fluctuations in blood sugar levels, warranting careful monitoring, especially for those on insulin or specific medications.

Managing Diabetes and Menopause:

  • Monitor Blood Sugar Levels More Frequently: Regular monitoring, facilitated by technologies such as flash glucose or continuous glucose monitors, becomes crucial. This not only aids in diabetes management but also helps distinguish between menopausal symptoms and potential hypoglycemic events.

  • Adjust Treatment as Needed: Consult with your healthcare team about potential adjustments to your diabetes treatment plan. The increased insulin resistance during menopause may necessitate changes to medication or insulin dosage.

  • Adopt a Healthy Diet: Both diabetes and menopause elevate the risk of heart disease, making a healthy diet imperative. Focus on reducing refined and processed foods while increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Following Diabetes UK's guidelines for a balanced diet can support overall health and manage blood sugar levels effectively.

  • Stay Active: Regular physical activity is beneficial for managing blood sugar levels and supporting bone health, which can be affected by declining oestrogen levels. Following NHS guidelines for physical activity can provide a roadmap for staying active during the perimenopausal and menopausal phases.

  • Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Discuss the potential benefits of HRT with your healthcare team. Contrary to common misconceptions, women with diabetes can safely explore HRT. It not only helps alleviate menopausal symptoms but also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, contributing to improved overall well-being.

  • Prioritise Health Checks: Regular health checks, including monitoring average blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, and eye and foot screenings, are crucial for managing diabetes. Document symptoms related to both diabetes and menopause before your consultations to facilitate a comprehensive discussion. 

Our consultations are 45 minutes long so offer the opportunity to fully discuss your requirements, concerns and questions so unlike a 10 minute doctor's visit, we can have you leaving with a world of answers instead of more questions. 

Simply Menopausal by Aly Dilks understands the unique challenges posed by menopause and diabetes, offering support and resources to empower women on their journey towards optimal health and well-being.

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