Type 2 diabetes is something that affects both male and women fairly equally, though it can be a little different for women. One way it is different is based on what occurs when a woman is in a certain stage of her life. Here is what you should know about diabetes in women, and during the different life stages she goes through.
The first stage of life where you need to be concerned with diabetes as a woman is early life. This is typically during adolescent years between pre-teen and teenage years. Type 1 diabetes is something you are born with, but it rarely shows itself before you are about 10 years old. Type 2 diabetes you can also get during your teens, often from a genetic risk, obesity, and many other factors. Getting diabetes at this young of an age creates more complications for things like diabetic eye disease, so it is important that you or your teenager stick to the diet laid out to you by your doctor.
The next life stage for women is early adulthood, which can range between 18 or 19 years old up to your early 40s. During this time, it is known as your reproductive life stage, where you can get pregnant and start a family. There are a lot of women around this age that have diabetes and don’t realize it, or get pregnant and are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Some adolescents have type 1 diabetes are not diagnosed with it until they reach this age, but type 2 diabetes tends to be a little more common during early adulthood.
The next life stage is when you get to the middle-aged years, between around 45 years old until your early 60s. This is when there is an increase in women who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes does tend to be more common with older women, so if you are a middle-aged woman in the United States, you are at a considerably higher risk. Women of this age with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing heart disease, so don’t go too long before you get tested and have a treatment plan by your doctor.
Lastly, there are senior women who are 65 years or older. It is very common in women of this age, plus the side effects and potential complications of diabetes gets higher for women of this age. You need to be concerned about heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes symptoms like nerve damage and vision loss.
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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.
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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