Did you know that almost one in 20 prescriptions written by GPs in the UK are for the treatment of diabetes? The disease costs the NHS a massive £10 billion a year, the effects can be devestating and for most of us it is avoidable with good nutrition and an active lifestyle.
Menopausal women are at higher risk of developing diabetes because when their hormones change they way they metabolise glucose can be affected. In this article, we’ll look at why that is, and what you can do to minimize your chances of being diagnosed with it.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar levels to become too high. It’s all to do with insulin – a hormone created by the pancreas that regulates blood glucose levels. Diabetes is divided into two types. Type 1 diabetes is when the body’s immune system attacks the cells that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is where the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin in the correct way.
What is menopause?
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life in which menstruation has stopped, due to reduced production by the ovaries of certain hormones – namely estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.. The build-up to menopause is called perimenopause which starts on average in a woman's mid forties and can last several years. Menopause usually happens between 50 and 55, and brings with it a long list of low estrogen related symptoms, from anxiety to hot flashes.
What’s the link between menopause and diabetes?
We know that menopausal women are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. But why is this? Well, there are two main reasons – weight gain and fluctuating hormone levels. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of them.
If you’re going through menopause, you’ll likely already be aware that weight gain can be a symptom. This can be a combinations of a number of factors including:
- Declining estrogen levels – as estrogen levels start to dip, the body changes how it stores fat, leading to weight gain, particularly around the abdomen
- Loss of muscle tissue – less testosterone means lower muscle mass, which in turn slows down your metabolism, making it more difficult to shift excess weight.
- A lack of exercise – many women struggle to keep up with regular exercise routines during perimenopause and in menopause, either due to tiredness or other symptoms.
- Poor diet – mood swings, anxiety, and depression can all make us reach for sugary and fatty comfort foods, and these are all part-and-parcel of menopause..
Unfortunately, being overweight increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, the higher your body mass index (BMI), the more at risk you are. The reasons for this are not entirely known. However, scientists have found that abdominal fat in particular causes cells to release pro-inflammatory chemicals, reducing the body’s ability to respond to insulin. Also, when your metabolism slows down, fat molecules are released into the blood, which leads to reduced insulin sensitivity.
Fluctuating hormone levels
In perimenopause, your hormone levels are all over the place – estrogen and progesterone levels can rise and fall at the drop of a hat. All of these ups and downs can cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall, too. Estrogen actually helps to keep our blood glucose levels down, so as menopause approaches and estrogen stores become lower, we’re more likely to experience spikes in our blood sugar. Over time, the pancreas can struggle to keep up, leading to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
How can I reduce the risk of developing diabetes?
Prevent spikes in blood sugar
Avoiding eating too much sugary food is an easy way to reduce the chances of your blood sugar levels getting too high. It’s also a good idea to add more fiber to your diet. High-fiber foods induce a lower blood glucose rise after consumption compared to high-sugar foods. Eve Biology meal replacement shakes have been designed especially for women going through menopause, they are high in a fiber which has been proven to help to reduce sugar spikes.
Being overweight puts you at a much higher risk of developing diabetes, so it’s really important to maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a moderate calorie deficit while eating a healthy, balanced diet is the most sustainable way to lose weight in the long term.
If you’re always busy with little time to prepare balanced, nutritions, calorie controlled meals, you might find meal-replacement shakes useful. Eve Biology’s weight loss shakes contain all of the nutrients you’d expect from a healthy meal, with the added benefit of being low in calories, super convenient with symptom targeting ingredients.. Not only that, but they’re packed with vitamins to support women over 45, including vitamins A, D, E, K, and C, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, and B6.
Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, using meal replacement shakes and eating a calorie-restricted diet can be transformative. In fact, research has shown that low-calorie diets, when paired with a weight management programme, can actually cause type 2 diabetes to go into remission.
The bottom line
Menopausal women are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, thanks to fluctuating hormone levels, a decline in estrogen, a decrease in the diversity of their gut microbiome and weight gain The best way to minimize your chances of getting diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight. Eating plenty of fiber, cutting calories, and eating less sugar are surefire ways to keep your BMI in check and keep menopause-related insulin resistance at bay.
How is diabetes affected by menopause?
During menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels fall drastically. This drop in hormones can make managing diabetes more difficult because it can result in changes to your blood sugar levels.
Can menopause cause high blood sugar?
Estrogen and blood sugar levels are linked, and hormonal changes in perimenopause can lead to high blood sugar levels. This puts you at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Is it normal to have hot flashes with diabetes?
Hot flashes are a common menopause symptom. And, they can also be triggered by low blood sugar. If you take insulin to control your diabetes, your medication may sometimes cause your blood sugar to dip a bit, which can bring on hot flashes.