Often women express irritation in ‘those five days in a month’, but menstruation is very important for a woman. When a woman undergoes menopause, it also triggers several health issues. Dr Uma Vaidyanathan, Senior Consultant — Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh talks about the connection between menopause and Type 2 Diabetes.
With advancing age, the female sex hormone estrogen levels decline in the body, ovaries stop producing eggs and periods stop; this phase is called ‘menopause’. The average age of menopause is 45. If periods stop before the age of 40, that can be considered as early menopause’. If the ovaries get removed for a medical necessity, menses may stop. But, without any medical reason, if anyone experiences early’ menopause, it becomes worrisome.
Many researchers claim that premature menopause and type 2 diabetes are interconnected. Though, medical science is still looking for evidence to establish a direct cause-effect relationship between early menopause and type 2 diabetes. A Dutch study has shown that when women experience menopause before the age of 40, the risk of type 2 diabetes is 4 times greater than those who experience late menopause. On the other hand, if a woman is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes beforehand, she can experience premature menopause. Family history, age and obesity are considered as three major risk factors in diabetes.
When menopause sets in, it leads to some physical changes. The variation in the level of estrogen and progesterone leads to insulin resistance. In this situation, due to hormonal imbalance, the pancreas struggles to produce required amount of insulin in the body, it may remain less effective and fails to allow the cells to absorb glucose as per requirement. Therefore, the blood glucose levels surge. Insulin assists in burning down fat that helps to energise our body.
If insulin production gets disturbed, the risk of obesity increases. It is an established fact that weight gain enhances the risk of type 2 diabetes. The progesterone fluctuation accelerates our food cravings and then to satiate the craving, we chose eating snacks or sweets. This unrestrained food craving makes diabetes management even more complicated. When it was observed that post menopause, women become more vulnerable to type 2 diabetes, researchers tried another study on post-menopausal women to understand whether estrogen truly affects the glucose level in the body.
In that study, it has been observed that estrogen specifically targets some cells in the pancreas and the gut and helps in increasing glucose tolerance.
Women need to stay cautious and seek medical attention immediately if any symptoms appear such as irregular periods, decreased sexual desire, vaginal infection, sleep disturbances etc. Experts believe that estrogen therapy may be beneficial in post-menopausal women in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. If one can monitor the blood sugar levels frequently, follow a healthy diet, quit smoking and exercise regularly, diabetes can be managed well.
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