Diabetes can affect both men and women, but there are some differences that occur when a woman gets type 2 diabetes. If you have signs and symptoms of this disease or have recently been diagnosed, here are some things to know about having diabetes as a woman.
You Can Get Gestational Diabetes
One of the more unique things about being a woman and getting diabetes is that even if you don’t have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can get gestational diabetes if you become pregnant. This is when you have a spike in your blood sugar only while pregnant, which goes away after you deliver your baby. However, while you are pregnant, you should take gestational diabetes just as seriously as any other form of diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar and watching your diet.
There Are Sexual Changes
Another way diabetes is different for women is that it can affect your sex life if you don’t manage it properly. You may notice changes in your sexual function from the nerve damage. Diabetes when not treated properly can ultimately lead to tingling and loss of feeling in various body parts, including your vaginal area. You may also have an increased amount of dryness in your vagina, which can also negatively impact your sex life. Additionally, common signs and symptoms for women with diabetes are increased infections like yeast infections, as well as urinary tract infections.
Higher Risk for PCOS
Diabetes can also affect women by creating a higher risk for conditions like PCOS. This stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome and is caused by irregular hormonal levels brought on by insulin resistance. As you know, insulin resistance can also lead to diabetes, which is why these two are linked so closely. PCOS can lead to infertility, weight gain, depression, and the symptoms of diabetes as well.
As a woman with diabetes, you also have all the same symptoms and dangers as men with this disease. You need to be concerned about foot problems, eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, fatigue, weight fluctuations, dizziness, and nerve damage. It is important that you get treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes and that you listen to your doctor’s orders as far as treatments and lifestyle changes go. Whether you change your diet or have to take medications, it can help you deal with diabetes and avoid all the potential complications at the same time.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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