Womens Top Diabetes Concerns

Managing type 2 diabetes means being good to yourself.

“Diabetes requires self-care to do it well,” says Robin Goland, MD, diabetes research director at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “While many women are comfortable at taking care of others, it can be hard for them to take care of themselves.”

Your first line of defense is a healthy diet and exercise plan, so talk to your doctor about creating one that will likely include:

  • Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. Anything that gets your heart rate up and causes you to sweat a little is beneficial, even if it’s gardening, walking, or cleaning your house.
  • Eating foods that will keep your blood sugar levels in check. That means choosing high-fiber foods, swapping out white starchy foods for whole grains, putting lots of vegetables on your plate, and steering clear of sweetened beverages, including fruit juice.

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Ask your doctor who else can help you, like a nutritionist or a diabetes specialist.

When you’re pregnant, you may also need to check your blood sugar more frequently -- up to eight times daily.

Protect Your Heart

Having diabetes makes heart disease more likely. That's all the more reason to follow your doctor's guidelines about diet and exercise.

Also, track your blood pressure, says OB/GYN and diabetes educator Cassandra Henderson, MD, of New York’s Lincoln Hospital and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Keeping your cholesterol levels in check will also help protect your heart.

If You're Planning to Get Pregnant

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Many women now have type 2 diabetes during their childbearing years. A healthy pregnancy is certainly possible with diabetes, but it takes extra care.

If you plan to get pregnant with type 2 diabetes, see your doctor first. You need a plan to keep your blood sugar level under control -- and during pregnancy the goals for blood sugars are very different.

Your doctor should check on your diabetes drugs, because some shouldn't be taken during pregnancy. As a result, you may need to take insulin.

When you’re pregnant, you may also need to check your blood sugar more frequently -- up to eight times daily -- to flag any blood sugar level spikes. And, of course, a healthy diet and exercise are a must to help control blood sugar.

Once you have your baby, you can breastfeed, if you choose to. Nursing helps your baby get to a healthy weight, and it also helps get your blood sugar and insulin levels under control.

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After your pregnancy, your blood sugar control will change. You may need less insulin or a change in your diabetes drugs or doses. Talk about it with your OB/ GYN, as well as the doctor you see for diabetes care.

Watch for Infections

“Certain types of infections can happen to anyone, men or women, but they tend to happen more frequently among women with type 2 diabetes,” says Melanie Jay, MD, a New York University professor of medicine. High blood sugars make a person with diabetes more likely to get infections. Higher than normal blood sugars may be a subtle sign of an infection.

Urinary tract infections happen when bacteria grow more readily in the lining of the bladder. Urinary tract infections can usually be treated with antibiotics your doctor prescribes.

Vaginal yeast infections may also accompany type 2 diabetes. The yeast, called candida, lives all over our bodies but thrives in warm, moist areas. If your blood sugars are often too high, you can have an overgrowth of candida that leads to infections.

Yeast infections can happen in other parts of the body where you have skin folds, such as in the armpits or beneath the breasts. People with diabetes can be prone to these infections.

What About Menopause?

Blood sugar fluctuations can cause some symptoms that are similar to those common in menopause, such as mood changes, fatigue, and hot flashes. Type 2 diabetes might also worsen sexual problems that can happen during menopause, like vaginal dryness and painful sex.

If you have any of these problems, talk to your doctor. Getting your diabetes under control helps.

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