Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body can no longer regulate blood sugar levels, resulting in serious complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, loss of vision, and limb amputation. Typically, type 2 diabetes affects those who are older, overweight, and do not exercise.  Yet, family history and ethnicity can put individuals at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes [1]. In the United States alone, over 29 million individuals are estimated to have diabetes, with over 245 billion dollars being spent on diabetes-related healthcare per year [2]. The good news is, the onset of type 2 diabetes can be delayed or even prevented with simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy, and staying active. However, some individuals may not know that they are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes before it is too late.

A recent study published in the journal, Menopause, found that reproductive history may help predict the risk of developing type 2 diabetes [3]. This longitudinal study analyzed the reproductive history of over 124,000 women who had already gone through menopause.  The study participants answered questions about their reproductive health such as the age that they had their first period and when they entered menopause, in addition to basic information about their general health. From this information, the authors categorized women into groups based on their reproductively active period, calculated by the number of years between a woman’s first and last period. Interestingly, they found that women who had reproductive periods less than 30 years and greater than 45 years were at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

The authors suggest that there may be a “Goldilocks effect” to the amount of estrogen a woman is exposed to throughout her lifetime: If the reproductive period is too short or too long it may lead to complications in metabolism. Based on this information, healthcare providers may be able to identify women at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and encourage them to lower their risk by modifying their diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  

Sources

  1. National Institutes of Health   
  2. Centers for Disease Control
  3. LeBlanc et al., Menopause. 2016 Jul 25. [Epub ahead of print]

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