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Exploring the Link Between Prediabetes and Menopause: What Women Need to Know


women in menopause

Menopause and Prediabetes— What?!?


I know, menopause can be challenging enough on its own. The thought of it along with prediabetes can be scary, but with some key knowledge and awareness you can not only avoid a serious condition but also improve your overall health for this new phase of life. Read on for important guidance!



The intersection of body changes and blood sugar function


If you’re in your late 40’s or 50’s, you’re probably experiencing menopause. Although it’s not viewed as a party for most women, it’s a natural phase in a woman's life when her menstrual cycles stop. And that alone is some good news, right?


Prediabetes is a condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Interestingly, menopause and prediabetes can intersect. Women going through menopause may be at higher risk for prediabetes due to hormonal changes and other factors. It's important to be aware of the potential link between menopause and prediabetes and to take proactive steps towards maintaining good health.


Understanding Prediabetes and Its Relationship with Menopause

According to menopause.org, half of women over age 65 have prediabetes and are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


Why does this occur? Menopause itself doesn’t cause prediabetes, but there are changes that occur during menopause that can contribute to developing prediabetes. These include:


  • Hormonal changes: Estrogen and progesterone affect how cells respond to the hormone insulin. When these hormones drop, particularly estrogen, cells may not be as sensitive to insulin. This can lead to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). 

  • Weight gain: Hormonal changes during menopause can increase the probability of weight gain. Excess weight is a known risk factor for prediabetes.

  • Disturbed sleep: Menopause can lead to restless sleep due to night sweats and insomnia. Inadequate sleep causes the body to produce more stress hormones, which can raise blood sugar and increase appetite the following day.

  • Mood swings: Fluctuating hormone levels can cause an increase in anxiety and depression, which can have numerous lifestyle effects including decreased energy levels and resistance to exercise.



The Impact of Hormonal Changes on Blood Sugar Levels


All the aforementioned changes can create risk factors for prediabetes during menopause, but the biggest factor that directly impacts blood sugar regulation is the balance of key reproductive hormones. Specifically, there is an important relationship between estrogen and insulin function.


First, a quick primer on glucose and insulin: When we consume food, it’s converted into glucose, which is the key fuel our bodies run on. Glucose is absorbed by the stomach and small intestines and then released into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, glucose can be used immediately for energy or stored in the body for later use. 


Insulin is the hormone thats helps transfer the glucose from the blood into the body’s tissues and cells for storage. How well insulin functions in the body is called insulin sensitivity.


Estrogen plays a role in this process because it helps improve insulin sensitivity. But menopause brings about a significant decrease in estrogen, which causes the cells to become more resistant to insulin. When the body becomes insulin resistant, more insulin is required to transport glucose into the cells. As insulin resistance increases, glucose stays in the blood and doesn’t get transported into the cells. That can cause elevated blood glucose.


Whereas eating carbohydrate-rich foods prior to menopause may have had minimal effect on blood sugar, during menopause these same foods may cause blood sugar levels to rise because of insulin resistance.


Understanding how these hormonal changes affect blood sugar levels is crucial for managing overall health during this new stage of life.




Risk Factors and Warning Signs: How Menopausal Women Can Identify Prediabetes Early


Prediabetes can be a challenging condition to notice. Increased thirst, frequent urination (particularly at night), and unexplained fatigue can affect some women with prediabetes, but more often there are no overt symptoms.


Menopausal women need to be aware of the risk factors of prediabetes to take charge of their health. By recognizing these signs early on, they can make necessary lifestyle changes to prevent the progression to type 2 diabetes.


Specifically, there are two key medical indicators that signal the likelihood of prediabetes:


  • Fasting blood sugar between 100 and 125mg/dL

  • Hemoglobin A1C lab test between 5.7% and 6.4%


By staying informed and vigilant about the signs and risk factors associated with prediabetes, menopausal women can catch the condition early and prevent more serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease— prediabetes is a risk factor for all these conditions!



Preventive Measures: Lifestyle Changes to Reduce the Risk of Developing Prediabetes in Menopause


Making some key lifestyle changes during and after menopause can significantly reduce the risk of developing prediabetes. By focusing on diet, exercise, and managing blood sugar levels, women can take proactive steps to safeguard their health.


  • Diet: Being aware of total carbohydrate consumption is key. This can be easily accomplished by tracking your diet with an online journal. Keeping carbohydrates to 25-30% of total calories is a good guideline.

  • Blood Sugar Tracking. Lab testing with your doctor can provide helpful data on your blood sugar levels. Understanding how your diet is affecting your blood sugar on a regular basis is most effectively done by home testing with a glucometer or using a continuous glucose monitor.

  • Exercise: The American Diabetes Association recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week for those who have diabetes, however this a smart goal for all women. This level of exercise can help menopausal women maintain a healthy weight, but it also directly helps improve insulin sensitivity.


By adopting these preventive measures and staying mindful of their impact on blood sugar levels, women can empower themselves to reduce the risk of developing prediabetes during and post-menopause.



Seeking Medical Guidance: The Importance of Regular Check-ups and Screening for Women in Menopausal Years


Regular health check-ups are crucial for women as they approach and enter menopause, especially if they are experiencing any prediabetic symptoms. Screening for prediabetes can help in early detection and management of the condition.

During routine check-ups and screenings, I recommend talking with your doctor about your interest in prediabetes prevention. Typical lab tests will include fasting blood glucose and HA1C.


If you suspect you have any early symptoms of prediabetes, such as increased thirst or frequent urination, don’t wait until symptoms worsen. Make an appointment with your provider as soon as possible. Being aware of body changes and symptoms along with routine check-ups and screenings can make a significant difference in maintaining good health during this stage of life.



Taking Control of Your Health During Menopause


Navigating through menopause can be a challenging time for many women, but it's also an opportunity to take control of your health. While menopausal women are more at risk of developing prediabetes, it’s important to know that prediabetes can be both avoided and reversed. It's essential to understand the risks, listen to what your body is telling you, and be proactive with health check-ups . Engage and invest in your health, and you can empower yourself to make positive changes for a healthier future.



 

Did you know that a steam sauna can improve blood sugar?

Yes, that’s right! And there are many other easy ways to improve blood sugar. Addressing prediabetes doesn’t have to be hard. Ready to improve your blood sugar without changing your diet? Sign up for my FREE mini course, 10 Ways to Improve Blood Sugar Without Changing Your Diet. It’s a free email course, and it’s a fast and easy way to learn 10 impactful tips to begin balancing your blood sugar TODAY! Learn more 



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