Can Menopause Cause High Blood Sugar?

Last updated 02.22.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 10 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Our blood sugar levels are affected by a variety of factors, including what we eat, how much we weigh, how old we are, and our genetic makeup. But did you know hormonal shifts that occur during menopause can also play a role in blood sugar regulation?

Most people aren’t aware of the impact hormones can have on blood sugar. But if you have diabetes, prediabetes, or insulin resistance, it’s important to understand the potential effects of hormonal changes during menopause.

High blood sugar is known as hyperglycemia. While menopause alone doesn’t cause hyperglycemia, it can increase your risk factor and make a pre-existing problem worse.

During my career in emergency medicine, I’ve treated countless patients with hyperglycemia, diabetes, and blood sugar instabilities. A significant proportion of these patients have been menopausal women whose symptoms have been exacerbated by hormonal changes.

So, are you a menopausal woman with concerns about your blood sugar? Do you have diabetes, or do you worry you might develop the condition in the future? Whatever your situation, it’s important to learn how menopause can impact your sugar levels, and how you can mitigate the effects of these hormonal shifts.

In this post, I’ll explain the connection between menopause and hyperglycemia. Plus, I’ll discuss the conditions associated with it, and share some tips on how to combat the problem.

What is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia, otherwise known as high blood sugar or high blood glucose, occurs when there is an excess amount of sugar in the blood. This is caused by one of two things: a lack of insulin, or an inability to use insulin correctly. If your body cannot utilize the insulin it creates, this is called insulin resistance.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the body to metabolize blood sugar and keep levels low.

People with hyperglycemia usually also have diabetes or prediabetes. If hyperglycemia isn’t treated, it can lead to serious health complications over time.

Hyperglycemia is diagnosed when a person’s fasting blood sugar level is higher than 125 mg/dL. If these blood results are repeated on more than one occasion, it usually indicates the person has Type 2 diabetes.

Fasting blood sugar levels that sit between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL suggest a person is in the pre-diabetic range.

The Connection Between Menopause and Hyperglycemia

While menopause doesn’t directly cause hyperglycemia, hormonal shifts that drive the symptoms of menopause can also affect our body’s insulin. This has the potential to impact blood glucose levels.

Here are some of the ways your insulin and blood sugar levels may be affected during this phase of life:

Hormonal Shifts

Estrogen maintains insulin sensitivity. But when we enter perimenopause (the build-up to menopause) our estrogen levels begin to dip, and they continue this downward trend until we reach menopause.

Lower levels of estrogen can help to drive insulin resistance; a condition where the cells in the body don’t respond correctly to insulin. This results in higher than healthy blood sugar levels. 

Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, can also increase during perimenopause and menopause. One of the roles of cortisol is to break down a form of stored glucose called glycogen. This raises blood sugar.

Weight Gain

Weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of menopause. Research carried out by the British Menopause Society suggests that women gain around 1.5kg each year during their menopausal transition. By the time an average woman reaches postmenopause, she is 10kg heavier than she was before her menopausal journey began.

This weight gain is often stored as visceral fat around the abdomen, and this type of fat storage is a primary cause of insulin resistance. This can lead to high blood sugar levels and eventually, Type 2 diabetes.

Sleep Problems

Other common symptoms of menopause are a change in sleep patterns and insomnia. When we don’t get the recommended 7-9 hours per night, it can result in insulin resistance and unhealthy levels of blood glucose.

Lack of sleep can also increase your appetite due to the release of a hunger-triggering hormone called ghrelin. So, sleep-deprived menopausal women are more likely to increase portion sizes and snack between meals. This can lead to additional weight gain which also contributes to an increase in blood sugar levels.

Hot Flashes and Night Sweats

Vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats are some of the most bothersome symptoms of menopause. But they’re not only uncomfortable; they’re also linked to insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels.

Research shows that women who suffer the most from vasomotor symptoms have a 33% higher than average blood glucose level than women who don’t. Further studies also suggest that hot flashes and night sweats can be a driver for developing diabetes.

What Health Problems Are Linked to High Blood Sugar?

What Health Problems Are Linked to High Blood Sugar

Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, occurs when too much glucose circulates in the blood. Short bouts of slightly elevated blood sugar aren’t usually a problem. However, if your blood glucose levels remain consistently high over a period of time, it can lead to several potentially serious health conditions. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Skin issues
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • High blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Nerve damage (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Eye damage (diabetic retinopathy)
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Sugar?

What Health Problems Are Linked to High Blood Sugar

If you have well-managed diabetes, you may already be able to spot the signs and symptoms that your blood sugar levels are too high. However, for undiagnosed and recently diagnosed diabetics, the symptoms can be harder to spot. So, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs.

High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia can present several symptoms, including:

  • Feeling excessively thirsty
  • Feeling excessively hungry
  • Dry mouth
  • Urinating more often than usual
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Forgetfulness

If blood sugar levels remain high for an extended period, it can lead to other symptoms such as:

  • Weight loss
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Frequent skin infections
  • Frequent yeast infections

If you notice any of the symptoms above, book an appointment with the doctor as soon as possible. Untreated hyperglycemia and diabetes can lead to serious medical complications.

How to Lower Blood Sugar Levels During Menopause

Anyone with diabetes or prediabetes should take steps to manage their blood glucose levels. However, it’s especially crucial during menopause, when other factors, like the ones discussed above, can further impact blood sugar. 

If you’re concerned about your blood glucose levels during menopause, visit your doctor. They can carry out any necessary testing and assess your condition according to the results. Then, they can prescribe a treatment plan and advise any lifestyle modifications that need to be made. 

That said, there are several things you can do to keep your blood sugar stable and healthy, including:

Eat a Healthy and Balanced Diet

Your diet is the biggest contributor to hyperglycemia, and knowing how to eat to stabilize your blood sugar is the key to staying healthy during menopause and beyond. 

Understanding the glycemic index (GI) of different types of foods can help you to make healthier choices. GI is a measurement that indicates how much a certain type of food increases your blood glucose level. 

Avoid simple sugars and processed carbs; they have a high glycemic index (GI) score and will spike your blood sugar. Instead, when consuming carbohydrates, choose complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and lentils. The body breaks these foods down much more slowly which will help your blood glucose levels to remain stable.

Some people do well by limiting their overall intake of carbohydrates, eg. through a low-carb or ketogenic diet. However, it’s essential to consult your doctor before opting for any kind of restrictive diet.

Get Plenty of Exercise

Exercise can combat insulin resistance and improve levels of insulin sensitivity. The more insulin-sensitive you are, the better your body can regulate blood sugar. 

A session in the gym also helps your muscles to burn glucose for energy. When we take time to exercise regularly, this effect can help to permanently stabilize blood sugar levels and stave off hyperglycemia.

Lose Weight

During perimenopause, most women will notice slight weight gain. This is particularly common in the abdomen. However, storing excess fat in the abdominal region is a major driver of insulin resistance.

So, if you’re prone to belly fat, it’s important to take steps to reduce it, such as eating a healthy balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise.

Drink Plenty of Water

Staying hydrated is important for everyone’s health, but it’s particularly crucial during menopause, and even more so if you have diabetes or prediabetes. 

Adequate hydration can lower the frequency and severity of several menopause symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. As we learned earlier in the post, these vasomotor symptoms are directly linked to blood sugar regulation. 

Drinking plenty of water also helps your kidneys to function correctly, which assists the body in managing blood glucose levels and reducing hyperglycemia. 

Stress Less

Earlier, we looked at how increased cortisol during menopause can cause elevated blood sugar levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that we need to survive. But if we’re chronically stressed, our bodies produce too much. This causes the amount of sugar in the blood to rise, which over time can lead to hyperglycemia and diabetes. 

So, try to reduce stress as much as possible. Some helpful tools to do this include mindfulness meditation, yoga, essential oils, and breathing techniques.

FAQs

Does my sleep quality affect my blood sugar during menopause?

Yes, absolutely. Insufficient sleep is linked to higher levels of cortisol, which in turn, raises your blood sugar level. That’s why it’s essential to prioritize sleep, especially during menopause. Experts recommend that adult perimenopausal and menopausal women get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.

Are menopausal mood swings related to blood sugar levels?

Not always, but sometimes. Menopause related mood swings are caused by fluctuating hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. However, mood swings can also occur due to fluctuations in blood sugar, too. To combat this, aim to keep your blood sugar as stable as possible throughout the day.

Does consuming alcohol affect my blood sugar levels?

Yes. Sugary alcoholic beverages such as beer and cocktails are the worst culprits, however, any kind of alcohol can affect your blood sugar and raise it to unhealthy levels.

It’s also wise for menopausal women to keep their drinking to a minimum since alcohol increases vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Conclusion

While menopause doesn’t cause high blood sugar, some of the symptoms and side effects can make high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, worse. 

If you’re concerned about your blood sugar levels during perimenopause or menopause, it’s essential to speak to your doctor as soon as possible. They can assess your symptoms, carry out any necessary testing, and prescribe a treatment plan that can help.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.

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