Controlling blood sugar promotes heart health

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Women in particular suffer more severe cardiovascular and other complications associated with diabetes.

According to the CDC, more than 34 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million have prediabetes, many of whom don’t even know it. This results in more than $235 billion in direct healthcare costs per year and $90 billion in lost productivity.1

Although more men than women are diagnosed with diabetes, diabetes affects women differently, and women often suffer from more serious complications, so controlling blood sugar levels is essential.2

symptoms

Many symptoms of diabetes are the same in men and women, such as blurred vision, excessive hunger or thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, fruity-smelling breath, headaches, lower respiratory and urinary tract infections, recurring skin conditions, slow-healing wounds, and unexplained weight loss. However, women commonly present with decreased libido, oral and/or vaginal yeast infections, and polycystic ovary syndrome.3.4

risk factors

Several factors increase the risk of women developing diabetes. This includes belonging to certain ethnic groups or races, e.g. B. Asian American, African American, Alaskan Native, Native American, or Pacific Islander; be obese or overweight; be older than 45 years; have a family history of diabetes; have developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy; have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol; have a history of heart disease or stroke; have polycystic ovary syndrome; and lead a sedentary lifestyle.3

complications

Although women experience many of the same complications as men, such as diabetic retinopathy, foodborne illness, heart and kidney disease, and neuropathy, they also experience different and/or more serious complications. These include the following:

heart disease. The most common complication of diabetes is heart disease. Although men with diabetes are about twice as likely to develop heart disease as people without diabetes, women are four times more likely to develop heart disease. They also have worse outcomes than men after a heart attack.2

hormonal changes. Women of childbearing age experience hormonal changes every month. These changes make it harder to regulate blood sugar. The same is true during pregnancy and progresses through menopause. When blood sugar levels rise, libido decreases. High blood sugar also leads to vaginal dryness, making intercourse uncomfortable and even painful.2

pregnancy. Diabetes can cause problems for both mother and child during pregnancy. Poor glucose control during pregnancy can increase the risk of breathing problems, low blood sugar at birth, birth defects and premature birth, and can also cause the baby to weigh too much and cause birth complications. Women with diabetes generally have a harder time conceiving. They are also at higher risk of developing preeclampsia or having a cesarean section, miscarriage, or stillbirth.2

urinary tract and yeast infections. Reduced blood flow and high blood sugar levels conspire to reduce the body’s ability to fight infection. This can lead to recurring oral and vaginal yeast infections, as well as urinary tract infections. Additionally, many women with diabetes have bladders that don’t empty completely, creating a welcoming environment for bacteria to grow.2

gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops when a woman who does not have diabetes has high blood sugar levels during pregnancy. This occurs in approximately 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States each year. Gestational diabetes can occur in any woman, but the risk is greater if a woman has a family history of type 2 diabetes, is obese or overweight, or is older than 25 years.2

Gestational diabetes usually goes away after birth; However, approximately 50% of these women will develop type 2 diabetes. It is important to retest diabetes between 4 and 12 weeks after delivery and every 1 to 3 years thereafter.2

what women can do

The goal in diabetes for both men and women is to keep hemoglobin A1c and blood glucose levels at or below target levels. Because diabetes is not a single disease, disease management varies from person to person, although the mechanisms used are the same. Management includes proper diet, exercise, hydration, medication, avoidance of alcohol and smoking, and proper planning.5

Women also have some special circumstances that require extra effort. Below are a few things to note:

diet. Patients should know how different foods affect the body. Counting carbohydrates, coordinating meals and medications, and choosing the right food combinations for balanced meals are all important in managing diabetes.5

exercise. Patients should speak to a doctor about an exercise plan, maintain an exercise plan, and know ideal blood sugar levels before beginning exercise.5

medication. Patients should know what medications to take, when, and stick to the schedule. You should also understand proper medication storage; For example, insulin is stored in the refrigerator. Patients should report problems with medications to a pharmacist or doctor. You should also be careful with new medications, as some can affect blood sugar levels.5

plan ahead. It is of utmost importance to be prepared when treating diabetes. Patients should always have enough medication on hand. When a medication makes the difference between life and death, they should make sure there is enough to cover emergency situations that arise and may arise
a plan for the safe transport of medicines. You should also have a plan if an illness occurs. The body’s defense mechanisms that help ward off disease can also raise blood sugar levels. Illness can also affect appetite, making glucose control all the more difficult. Patients should test frequently when disease occurs and adjust management accordingly.5

Special circumstances of the woman. Hormone levels fluctuate before, during, and after a menstrual cycle. It’s important to be proactive and try to distinguish patterns of blood sugar changes that correlate with hormonal changes. During these times, adjustments to the diabetic treatment plan may be needed to keep glucose levels low. In addition, the same applies to pregnancy and menopause, although these can be more gradual and long-term.5

About the author

Kathleen Kenny, PharmD, RPh, has more than 25 years of experience as a community pharmacist. She is a freelance clinical medical writer based in Homosassa, Florida.

references

1st Division of Diabetes Translation at a Glance. CDC. Updated August 21, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/diabetes.htm

2. Diabetes and women. CDC. Updated December 1, 2020. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-women.html

3. Gotter A. How Diabetes Affects Women: Symptoms, Risks, and More. health line. April 27, 2017. Accessed June 13, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/symptoms-in-women

4. Livadas S, Angnostis P, Bodou JK, Bantouna D, Paparodis R. Polycystic ovary syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitis: a recent review. World J Diabetes. 2022;13(1):5-26. doi:10.4239/wjd.v13.i1.5

5. Diabetes management: How lifestyle and daily routine affect blood sugar. Mayo Clinic. June 3, 2022. Accessed June 14, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-management/art-20047963

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