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New research seems to settle the question of whether there’s a link between how much a woman works out and her risk of early menopause.

The conclusion? There is no link.

Previous studies have produced conflicting results, with some suggesting that very active women may be at lower risk of menopause before the age of 45, while other research came to the opposite conclusion.

In this new study, researchers analyzed data from more than 107,000 U.S. women between the ages of 25 and 42, who were followed for 20 years. As it turned out, there was no association between physical activity at any age and early menopause.

The findings were published Sept. 4 in the journal Human Reproduction.

“Our study provides considerable information in helping us understand the relationship between activity and timing of menopause; this is because of its size, its focus on early menopause specifically, and because of its prospective design, which limited the likelihood of bias and allowed us to look at physical activity at different time periods,” said study director Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson.

She’s a professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts.

“Several previous well-designed studies have found suggestions that more physical activity is associated with older age at menopause, but even in those studies the size of the effect was very small,” Bertone-Johnson said in a journal news release.

“Our results, in conjunction with other studies, provide substantial evidence that physical activity is not importantly associated with early menopause,” she added.

But another researcher on the team added a caveat to the findings.

“While our results do not suggest that more physical activity is associated with lower risk of early menopause, we would encourage premenopausal women to be physically active, as exercise is associated with a range of health benefits,” said study first author Mingfei Zhao.

Zhao, who conducted the study as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, noted the pluses of exercise, such as a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and other conditions.

“Our results in no way suggest that premenopausal women should not be physically active,” she said.

The scientists also examined other factors that might play a role in early menopause.

“Our work has suggested that environmental factors are associated with early menopause. We found higher intake of calcium and vitamin D from dairy foods to be associated with lower risk,” Bertone-Johnson said.

“Higher intake of vegetable protein was associated with lower risk as well, though animal protein was not. Cigarette smoking is associated with higher risk, as is being underweight. We are currently investigating other factors as well,” she added.

But the study did not prove that these factors caused early menopause risk to rise or fall.

More information

The North American Menopause Society has more on early menopause.

SOURCE: Human Reproduction, news release, Sept. 4, 2018

Source: https://consumer.healthday.com/women-s-health-information-34/menopause-and-postmenopause-news-472/exercise-doesn-t-affect-timing-of-menopause-study-finds-737412.html

Well, this will certainly get parents talking.

With the start of school, parents everywhere are struggling to get their kids back on an earlier schedule after a summer of free rein. And a certain chart that has gone viral isn’t helping to make them feel less anxious about it. Based on your child’s age, it tells you when you should put them to sleep so they get enough rest for the next day — and a lot of parents are pretty surprised at how early the bedtimes are.

Stacy Karlsen, an educator from Wilson Elementary in Kenosha, Wisconson, posted the chart on August 28 because she thought it would be helpful to parents with children at her school. Since then, it’s been shared more than 380,000 times.

“To me, it was a shock [that the post was shared so much]. I didn’t make it up. I found it coming across my personal page and I thought, Wow, this is super helpful,” the first grade teacher told Fox6Now.

But many moms and dads are finding the chart’s rigid guidelines anything but helpful: “This isn’t [the] military and if I was to send my kids to bed at 7 at night they would be up at 4 a.m., no thank you … Plus I would never get to spend time with them after school,” one mom, Erica Bodie, posted in the comments.

Still, for others like Faith Meadows Longorio, it just confirmed what they’d been doing all along. “I have four kids — and I catch a lot of flack for their bedtimes,” she posted. “I started out setting their bedtime years ago based on how much sleep they need … Glad to see this chart justify the exact times we have already set!”

Doctors recommend that children ages 3 to 6 need about 10-12 hours of sleep each day. And 7- to 12-year-olds do best with 10 or 11 hours. Why? Not getting enough shut-eye can lead to weight gain, as well as taking a toll on their physical, emotional, and social health.

So using this handy chart could help ensure your children are getting enough rest. As for how to get them actually in bed and sleeping soundly, pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shurecommends creating a nightly routine that helps kids wind down, like the “4 B’s: bathing, brushing teeth, books, and bedtime.”

The problem with panic attacks isn’t the sheer terror you experience when you’re caught up in one, nor is it the ensuing fatigue. It’s how preoccupied you are before having to face that same situation again. Perhaps it’s taking the train or plane, or speaking at a meeting—the thought of the situation alone makes your shoulders seize, and you have sleepless nights because the same circuits get activated in the brain simply by thinking about it.

I know this intimately because panic attacks used to be my dirty little secret, and I believed I’d have to manage them for the rest of my life.

But as a clinical psychologist, one of my specializations today is treating panic attacks. If you believe they’re a lifelong affliction, here are a few small but powerful steps that can start you down the path to healing—because it does exist:

1. Remember: There is no shame in making yourself comfortable.

In psychology, the term “safety behaviors” refers to the things we do that we believe help us cope with panic attacks but actually cause them to persist. For instance, we may believe, “If I don’t bring water or a book to distract myself, I’ll have a panic attack on this train.” So we’ll continue to indulge in these safety behaviors to protect ourselves, thinking we need them to cope with the stressful situation. As a typical treatment method, therefore, we’re encouraged to let go of these alleged crutches.

But what if the train is legitimately stuffy because the heaters are switched on during a boiling summer, and there’s no ventilation? Does that mean we should adamantly not bring water? As I tell my clients, look around—in any hot situation, it’s common sense to carry water and not judge yourself for removing layers of clothes. Similarly, if you’re taking an airline where the air conditioner only turns on after takeoff, it’s no big deal to ask the crew for a glass of iced water.

You don’t always need to “try to be courageous” when looking to overcome panic. You may have always read to distract yourself in vehicles long before your first panic attack. Why judge yourself for that? We all want to keep ourselves feeling comfortable. It’s important to learn what’s reasonable behavior and not be too unnecessarily hard on ourselves. It comes down to just being mindful: Are your needs based on fear or practical concerns?

2. Know that panic attacks don’t make you less of a person.

Most of my clients imagine “mental illness” to mean they’ll need to be in a psychiatric ward because of mild anxiety, and that terror itself makes everything worse. I knew that terror personally: My first panic attack happened as I began my career as a psychologist. Much as I’d tell my clients there’s no shame in experiencing panic or in having a mental illness—and I believed that—a part of me sided with the societal stigma. As a Type A perfectionist, I expect more from myself than from others, and like anyone who keeps hearing the negative ways other people can view those of us with anxiety, I feared being seen as less than a person. But I started to realize I was inflicting that stigma on myself with my own thoughts.

We must learn to reframe anxiety as a mental health difficulty and to accept that it’s OK to struggle with our mental fitness on some days more than others. That way, it doesn’t become wrapped up with how we see ourselves, and we can stop feeling ashamed of who we are.

3. Return to your body.

The tornado of catastrophic thoughts during a panic attack is soul-crushingly debilitating. And they seem logical—I’m having a heart attack if your heart is palpitating and your chest is aching, or people are laughing at me because when we feel vulnerable, we imagine the spotlight is thrust upon us. This is followed by self-critique, like stop being so stupidjust get over it, and be logical. Self-castigation adds a veneer of shame and pressure to find the mythological “Stop This Panic Attack Right Now” button.

Being lost in our heads means we don’t make wise decisions. Instead, we need to refocus our attention on our physical sensations. The simplest way to return to your body is to shuffle your feet on the ground, just as animals do. As we feel the points of contact between our soles and the floor, we get grounded. We slow down. We stop being caught up in our thoughts. That’s when we realize we aren’t having a heart attack and that people aren’t laughing—they probably haven’t noticed a thing.

When that mindset shift happens, you can ask yourself, “So what can I do right now to take care of myself?” Perhaps, it’s getting some fresh air or having a soothing cup of tea.

4. Don’t be disheartened if you try a supposed “healing” method that doesn’t work.

We love the idea of a quick miracle fix. I get this—I’d have paid any amount for a pill or a dietary change so I’d never freak out on a train again. I explored the different popular solutions—from spiritual energy clearing to nutritional options—that claimed to “get rid of panic attacks for good” for those who said they’d tried, failed, and thought themselves “incurable.” But I realized many of these methods weren’t actually targeting panic attacks. They were designed around anxiety: When your head is bogged down by catastrophic thoughts, and you’re paralyzed into inaction. It can be physically exhausting indeed—but although they’re related, having anxiety is not the same as having a panic attack.

A panic attack is physically debilitating. It’s when you feel your head or heart is about to explode, the prickly heat at the back of your neck is coursing through your entire body, and your breathing becomes so shallow that you have zero doubt that something tragic is going to happen to you. You’ll do anything to escape the situation you’re in—for respite in the form of fresh air, water, or space. A panic attack feels like an alien has possessed your body.

While tweaking our nutrition and energy can be immensely helpful for our gut and mind, healing from panic attacks involves knowing intimately that the old triggering context is safe. That we can deal. It involves being able to eventually walk into that same context and think nothing about it. Moreover, for many of us, our minds need closure—to understand why we started having panic attacks in the first place. Otherwise we find ourselves in similar situations years later, and they have a reprisal. That’s why panic treatment looks different from broader anxiety treatment; pinpointing the root cause and thoughts associated with your panic attacks is key.

5. Find your supporters.

“After five years in my job, I told my manager the truth because I was breaking down,” one client once told me. “I thought he’d fire me, but he told me to see you.”

This person, like my old self, feared telling others. Yes, you’ll run into some people who may mock you or tell you to just “mindset” it away. Some people may lack understanding for various reasons, but there will be many who will have your back. Anxiety is one of the most common mental health difficulties we face, and panic attacks are one of its manifestations. People are growing increasingly aware and understand the need to tackle them. Find the people who are willing to step up and support you; drop those who aren’t.

6. See improvements as up-leveling.

A simple way to reframe Project: Heal Panic Attacks is to see it as a game, where you advance in levels. Many mistakenly believe that they need to “get over all the symptoms” immediately when tackling this, and I explain that our panic attacks didn’t get so bad overnight. An hour of work is merely the beginning. This mindset shift helps many to go easier on themselves. And so we’ll draw up different levels of challenges to work on—initially your fear level may be 11/10, and as you “level up,” it’ll drop to 3 and then eventually to 0. Feeling that sense of accomplishment as you level up provides a much-needed dopamine boost in your brain that makes you want to keep forging forward.

7. Accept that sometimes you’ll slip.

Two years after my final panic attack, I felt that familiar heart palpitation. “Oh god, are they back?” I wondered.

As I paused, I had a few realizations. First, it was an extremely stuffy train, and I was wearing multiple layers of cashmere. Second, it was a particularly stressful time in my life. So I told myself, “Even if they return, I know how to deal. I won’t judge myself.”

I got to my destination; the ride was more pleasant than I’d catastrophized. The next train I took raised my pulse by a little more than normal, but it was minor. I realized I’d conquered it.

I tell this story because life happens. We’ll feel we’re slipping back. When working on healing panic attacks, there’s inevitably a week or two when my clients despondently declare they’re “back at square one” because life can get stressful or that week’s homework was a little more challenging. And that’s precisely how the process works—we have to experience what it feels like to slip back and to know we have the resources to master this. When that happens, we know we can conquer any situation.

Just because there’s a Band-Aid doesn’t mean you’ll live your life that way forever.

A big problem with dealing with panic attacks is that when caught in the terror, we’re desperate for anything to take the pain away. But when it’s over, we tell ourselves we won’t have to work on it and will simply deal when it hits next. Oscillating between desperation and denial merely increases our sense of helplessness. What worsens it all is how we’re also told that panic attacks—like anxiety—are simply things we have to learn to cope with all our lives. But really, coping is passé—it’s like those “coping with stress” and “time management” seminars that only add to our to-do list and paradoxically cost us more time and stress.

Here’s what you need to know about healing from panic attacks, to debunk the myths we’re told:

  • You can live a life free of panic attacks. That should be your expectation, not simply learning another breathing method to “cope” with them.
  • You don’t need to sit on a therapist’s couch for years without improvements—in fact, most of my clients FaceTime with me as I get them back on trains and planes in as little as three weeks, despite decades of avoiding them.
  • People with panic attacks often have anxiety and believe their head is in control. Actually, you can be the master of your mind and make it work for you instead.

Panic attacks shrink our lives and how we see ourselves. They take away our freedom, no matter how we justify that we can live with that. Yes, we can learn to tolerate anything in our lives, but imagine what it would be like to stop being at the mercy of panic attacks and to instead really, truly be able to live your fullest life.

It is your right to heal from panic attacks. You can choose life instead.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-heal-from-panic-attacks-7-small-steps

Vaginal itching and burning is frustrating—but you can get rid of it.

Most women have dealt with vaginal itching at some point in their lives, but it can still be a huge discomfort whenever you experience it. What can make the condition even moreuncomfortable is that having an itchy vagina could signal a diverse range of causes, from something as manageable as switching soaps, to something more pressing, like a sexually transmitted infection.

That’s why even if you think you might know your cause of vaginal itching, it’s still important to make an appointment with your doctor so you can treat it accordingly, says Jill Krapf, MD, assistant professor in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas San Antonio School of Medicine.

The good news is that a healthy vagina shouldn’t be itchy too often. “The vagina is a self-cleaning oven,” says Audra Williams, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham School of Medicine. “It really takes care of itself. It’s got natural bacteria that keep a balance in the vagina, and so when that balance is disrupted, it can tip toward being more itchy or having more discharge.”


So why is my vagina itchy?

Here are five of the most common reasons you might be experiencing an itchy vagina, and what to do about it.

You have a yeast infection

One of the most common problems women typically jump to when they have vaginal itching is a yeast infection, says Dr. Williams. And for a lot of those women, they’d be right. After all, the majority of women— about 75 percent—will experience at least one yeast infection during their lifetime.

A yeast infection is exactly what it sounds like: there’s a yeast growing in your vagina where it shouldn’t be, which can cause a lot of discomfort. “It’s a living organism that causes the infection,” says Dr. Williams. “This causes an inflammation of the vaginal tissue, which is what causes all the symptoms.” Among those yeast infection symptoms, aside from the classically characterized itch, are having a thick, white, curd-like discharge, and experiencing a burning sensation when you pee.

Vaginal itch fix:

Luckily, there are plenty of over-the-counter treatments available for yeast infections, like Monistat, that can be taken as a vaginal cream or suppository. The key here is paying attention to whether the treatment is actually working. “If symptoms do not resolve after initial treatment, it is important to see a doctor,” says Dr. Krapf.


You have bacterial vaginosis

This sounds a lot scarier than it is, because bacterial vaginosis isn’t truly an infection, says Dr. Williams. “It happens when the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina gets thrown off, so there’s an overgrowth of a certain type of bacteria that causes all the symptoms that a woman may have,” she says.

Aside from itching, bacterial vaginosis often presents other classic symptoms like thin, watery discharge that has a fishy odor to it. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s a good idea to get to the doctor right away so he or she can prescribe an antibiotic prescription that will help restore that healthy balance in your vagina.

Vaginal itch fix:

A great way to prevent bacterial vaginosis down the road starts with your diet. “Some women find that taking probiotics or having yogurts with increased cultures can be helpful in maintaining their vaginal health,” says Williams.


You switched soaps or bought new undies

If you’re having some itching, but you’re not experiencing any of those discharge-related symptoms associated with something like a yeast infection or a bacterial vaginosis, it might be worth asking: what have I changed in my hygiene or clothing routine lately?

Product changes can cause a condition called contact dermatitis, where your skin reacts to an allergen or irritant it doesn’t agree with, like a new soap, lotion, dye, detergent, or even a sanitary pad. “Some women are just more sensitive to scented products or dyed products and will actually have an allergic reaction,” says Dr. Williams. “Other times, they’re not necessarily allergic to a specific thing, but it can cause a certain amount of irritation.” So rather than it being an infection or imbalance in your vaginal bacteria, your itching could be caused solely by exposure to something it doesn’t like.

Vaginal itch fix:

If you’re able to pinpoint a new change in your routine that could be causing the itching, stop using it right away and see if the problem clears up. But if you can’t think of any changes, just make sure you’re avoiding any scented products or synthetic fabrics. “Just using plain, unscented Dove soap is a good go-to you can use to try to avoid any dyes or other scented products,” says Dr. Williams. “If you’re wearing underwear when you sleep, make sure they’re 100 percent cotton. That allows more breathability to the vagina. I always tell patients try not to sleep in underwear.”

Another major no-no? Douching, says Dr. Williams. Same goes for latex condoms or lubricants if you’re experiencing a reaction to those during intercourse, says Dr. Knapf. Instead, try non-latex condoms or condoms that don’t contain lubricants or spermicides in them. If you’ve tried all of this and you’re still experiencing itching it’s time to get to the doctor to see what else might be going on.


You’re going through menopause

If you’re approaching or are at the age where menopause is coming into play—the average age is 51, according to the North American Menopause Society—and you’re having some vaginal itching, it could be a symptom of those hormonal changes that occur during and after menopause.

After menopause, the hormonal changes you experience can cause vaginal dryness and thinning of the skin, which is called vaginal atrophy, says Dr. Krapf. And although you can’t reverse these menopausal changes, there are some remedies you can use to get rid of some of that vaginal itching and discomfort associated with them.

Vaginal itch fix:

To help with the vaginal atrophy, you can try an over-the-counter vaginal moisturizer, which comes in both cream and suppository forms. Or, if you’re just experiencing the dryness or itching during or after sex, you can use coconut oil or a lubricant during sex to help curb some of those symptoms, says Dr. Krapf. (Here are some other ways sex after 50 can change.)


You might have a sexually transmitted infection

Although less likely than the other causes to create itching, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are still something your gynecologist is thinking about when you come in with vaginal itching, says Williams.

One STI in particular that he or she might consider is trichomoniasis. “Trich” is caused by a parasite called Trichomoniasis vaginalis and is extremely commonly, with an estimated 3.7 million people in the U.S. carrying the infection, according to the CDC. “Trichomoniasis tends to cause a heavier discharge and more vaginal symptoms,” says Williams. While no one wants any STI, treatment of trich consists of oral medication and should go away fairly quickly once you start taking meds (though you can get reinfected).

Vaginal itch fix:

Other STIs can cause itching, including chlamydia, genital herpes, and genital warts, says Dr. Krapf. If you think you might have an STI it’s important to get to your doctor for testing to see what exactly is going on down there and how to treat it most effectively. And of course, make sure your partner always wears a condom to protect against any STIs.


When in doubt, get checked out

The most important thing to remember, regardless of what’s causing your vaginal itching, is that there are solutions no matter what the root of the cause is. “It’s important for women to know that they don’t have to sit there and struggle,” says Dr. Williams. “[Doctors] are there to help.”

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a20469461/5-common-reasons-for-vaginal-itching/

How does the ego factor into our decision to become a parent?

The ego is that part of us that subscribes to the conditionings of culture and all that we believe we “should” do in order to feel worthy and complete. We are raised by a set of prescriptions that dictate how we should be in life: College, career, marriage, and parenting are some of the few prescriptions set forth for us by the culture around us. Many of us are led by this ego into the parenting process because it has been indoctrinated in us to do so. We believe we are being selfless but, in fact, are motivated by highly egoic and self-absorbed reasons. It is only when we can acknowledge the role of our ego in parenting that we will begin to become conscious of its influence—and then rein it in so that our children are not burdened by its expectations and agendas.

What key lessons would you teach in a parenting class?

Parenting is about raising the parent’s self more than it is about raising the child’s self. It is only when the parent commits to their own inner healing and inner integration that they will be able to attune to the needs of the child before them. When we parents become aware of our own “emotional baggage,” we pay attention to the many ways this “stuff” overflows into our dynamic with our children, and we pay heed to not letting it interfere with who it is they authentically are. Our greatest gift to our children is to allow them to unfold into who it is they authentically are without burdening them with our projections and expectations.

I would also teach parents to mind their reactivity. Take a pause before reacting to ask yourselves this: What is this moment revealing about me? How can I change my awareness in this moment so that I can mindfully respond to my child as opposed to simply reacting to them blindly?

What is the difference between creating boundaries and discipline?

The concept of discipline belongs to an archaic paradigm of control over and manipulation of children, and it’s considered primitive by most modern psychologists. Most techniques of traditional disciplinary practices are rooted in punishing the child for their negative behaviors, steeped in threats, anger, reactivity, and child management. The strategies used to punish the child often have little to do with natural consequences and more to do with the whims of the parent at that moment in time. Most likely, children of disciplinary strategies harbor resentment and shame, which may be hard to shake off for generations to come.

Boundaries, on the other hand, have less to do with punishment and more to do with self-respect and self-care. The parent institutes boundaries for acceptable and wholesome behavior as opposed to inappropriate and unwholesome behaviors. Boundaries can either be negotiated or set in stone. This is often determined by the severity of the inappropriate behavior. Boundaries are typically nonreactive and nonpunitive. They are instituted for the best interests of all parties involved rather than just the desire for the parent to regain control. Boundaries are essential for the self-care and well-being of all involved, raising self-esteem and self-governance.

How does chasing happiness have an adverse effect on children?

When children are taught to “chase” happiness, they are given the misguided teaching that happiness is something that is concrete and tangible that can be chased. Little do we realize that happiness is not something to be gained in the future; it is either experienced in the moment, or it is not. Happiness is a state of mind rather than an outcome to be achieved. In fact, the more one chases it, the more one is in lack and the more we drive it away. Conversely, when we steep ourselves in gratitude and abundance, we realize that happiness was nowhere to be found but in our own minds.

What are some key ways to let children enjoy childhood?

No screen time, more free-play time, and fewer structured activities. No pressure to succeed or look a certain way; more rest and relaxation rather than incessant anxiety over their performance. More being rather than doing.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/the-opposite-of-tiger-mom-parenting-help-your-child-tap-into-their-inner-self

It’s officially August and high time for soaking up the best of what summer has to offer, including vacation, beach trips, and lazy summer days. The last thing many of us want to do when it’s hot is work out, but an array of new research shows that reducing exercise due to circumstance or preference may have lasting negative effects on metabolism, insulin resistance, body composition, and much more.

Whether the effects last depends on your age, your level of activity before the exercise “break,” and the length of time your break endures. One study recently published in the journal Diabetologiasought to find out what happens when active men and women suddenly stop their habitual daily movement. To assess, researchers found 45 healthy, active adults and took various measures of their health before starting the experiment, first after 14 days of drastically reduced activity and once more after 14 days of increasing their normal active routines. Body composition, X-rays, magnetic resonance spectroscopy (an imaging technology complementary to MRIs), and multi-organ insulin sensitivity tests were run at each 14-day juncture.

Before the study began, these people were walking more than their recommended 10,000 steps each day (though we know now that’s variable in and of itself); during the restricted-movement phase, they took an average of 95 percent fewer steps and increased sedentary behavior by almost four hours daily. The bad news is that testing after the two-week sedentary phase revealed whole-body decreased insulin sensitivity; lower muscle mass; an increase in total body fat, liver fat, and “bad” LDL cholesterol; and lower cardiorespiratory levels of fitness across the board. The scientists who conducted the study called these “metabolic derangements”—yikes!

The good news is that after participants go back to their habitual levels of movement and activity, these metabolic derangements were reversed. Don’t have the time to work out? We got you. According to NASM-certified personal trainer (and mbg staffer) Matt Scheetz, one of the best and most underrated ways to squeeze in a “workout” is through the NEAT technique, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Taking the stairs, opting for a walking meeting, standing desks, or parking a little farther from the entrance of the grocery store are all good examples of NEAT. In fact, when applied consistently, Scheetz said that research shows NEAT may be even more effective than traditional exercise.

While we each need a different amount of exercise, and there are certainly times when your body could benefit from a few days off, a prolonged period without getting your normal amount of activity isn’t necessarily better for you than slowing down—another reminder that consistency is everything.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/break-from-exercise-effects-on-blood-sugar-study

Type 2 diabetes complications can be severe—but with proper treatment, you can avoid them.

When we hear “diabetes,” we tend to think of problems with producing insulin and regulating blood sugar. And that’s definitely a key part of this chronic disease, which affects nearly 1 in 10 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“Diabetes is like termites, in that it causes slow, hidden, but significant damage in the body,” says Osama Hamdy, MD, PhD, director of the Inpatient Diabetes Program at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “Most patients with type 2 diabetes die from a heart attack,” Hamdy says, “but because the disease doesn’t have many symptoms, people tend to take it lightly.”

And evidence continues to mount that diabetes affects every system in the body and can wreak havoc if it’s not well managed.Learn more below about the side effects of diabetes and how you can protect yourself from complications. The good news: most complications can be avoided by following the treatment plan set out by your doctor.

High blood pressure and cholesterol
Close up of blood pressure gauge

GETTY IMAGESANDREW BROOKES

When you have type 2 diabetes, your body can’t properly use insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. In turn, your HDL (or “good”) cholesterol lowers, and your levels of harmful blood fats called triglycerides rise. Insulin resistance also contributes to hardened, narrow arteries, which in turn increases your blood pressure. As a result, about 70 percent of people with either type of diabetes also have hypertension—a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and trouble with thinking and memory.

Failing to control high blood pressure and high cholesterol, either with diet and exercise alone or by adding medications, accelerates the rate at which all your other complications progress, says Robert Gabbay, MD, PhD, chief medical officer at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Brain health issues
Man with unplugged tangled electric wires in brain

GETTY IMAGESGARY WATERS

A study published in the journal Neurology suggests that diabetes zaps brainpower. A team of Harvard neurologists and psychiatrists followed men and women with type 2 diabetes, examining blood flow to different regions of their brains and testing their intellectual performance. After 2 years, participants’ cognitive abilities showed signs of falling off, specifically their executive functioning—the ability to plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, pay attention, and get started on tasks. “It appears that people with diabetes have some abnormalities of control of blood flow to the brain,” explains Rockville, Maryland–based endocrinologist Helena Rodbard, MD, who was not involved in the study. “And this appears to be correlated with a more rapid loss of mental function with age.”

Protecting your noggin looks a lot like good diabetes management. According to Rodbard, that means following instructions for diet, exercise, lifestyle, medications, and visits with physicians and other members of your health care team; monitoring your glucose levels frequently; and doing whatever is necessary to prevent low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. You’ll also want to stay active physically and mentally, logging at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, and keep your mind stimulated. “Read, socialize, work, and play games that challenge your intellect,” Rodbard says. “Keep a positive, optimistic attitude—don’t permit yourself to become depressed.”

Gum disease
gum disease

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People with diabetes are more likely to develop periodontal disease, an infection of the gum and bone that can lead to painful chewing problems and tooth loss. “This is due in part to elevated blood sugar that modifies the collagen in all of our tissues,” Rodbard says. “It’s also due to a slight increase in susceptibility to infections of all kinds.” The two conditions have been so strongly linked that simply having gum disease may be a sign of future type 2 diabetes. In a Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health study of 9,000 people, those with higher levels of periodontal disease were nearly twice as likely to become diabetic within the next two decades than people without gum disease, even after adjusting for age, smoking, obesity, and diet. Unfortunately, it’s a negative feedback loop: Not only does diabetes make gum disease worse, but gum disease—specifically inflammation of the gums or development of deep abscesses—can raise blood sugar and make diabetes harder to control, according to Hamdy. To prevent periodontitis, brush and floss daily and consider using a mild antiseptic mouthwash such as Listerine to knock out any lingering plaque. (And listen to what your teeth are trying to tell you.)

Sex difficulties
sex difficulties

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Up to 75 percent of men with diabetes will experience some level of erectile dysfunction in their lifetime, according to the American Diabetes Association. “Erectile dysfunction can be psychological or due to reduced testosterone,” Hamdy says, noting that low testosterone is common among people with diabetes, especially if they’re obese. “However, in patients with a long duration of diabetes, changes in blood vessels and nerve supply to the penis could be the cause.” If you have diabetes, are over age 40, and have been having trouble with your male equipment, see your doctor to get your serum total and your free testosterone levels checked. If both are normal, Hamdy suggests looking at other causes related to blood vessels and nerve supply. Middle-aged and older women with diabetes also tend to have sexual issues, according to a 2012 study of nearly 2,300 women published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, likely because nerve damage can impair lubrication and the ability to achieve orgasm.

Hearing loss
hearing loss

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While we all tend to lose some hearing as we age, hearing loss is twice as common in people with diabetes as in the general population, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. Even in people with prediabetes—a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes—the rate of hearing loss is 30 percent higher than average. Diabetes may lead to hearing loss by damaging the small blood vessels in the inner ear, the same way it impairs blood vessels in the eyes and kidneys, the study authors suggest. The best way to protect your hearing is to keep your blood sugar levels in check, Rodbard says. In fact, in a 2012 study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, older women with uncontrolled diabetes had more hearing loss than women the same age who had well-controlled diabetes, though the protective effect did not seem to hold true for men.

Skin infections
skin infections

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Having diabetes hikes your risk for all kinds of skin issues, including bacterial infections such as boils and urinary tract infections, fungal infections, and itching. “Fungal infections, especially yeast infections, are so common that they may even be the first sign of diabetes in someone who hasn’t yet been diagnosed,” Hamdy says. In some cases, skin infections can be tied to obesity, because there are “moist places between skin folds that may breed bacteria and fungi, including candida,” Rodbard says, and because the immune system may be weakened. Unfortunately, several of the newer, go-to diabetes medications (of the SGLT-2 class of drugs, including canagliflozin, dapagliflozin, and empagliflozin) clearly increase the risk of fungal infections of the genitalia, Hamdy says, because they enhance glucose excretion in urine, fueling growth of bacteria and fungus. While yeast infections are more common in women, they’re markedly on the rise in men. Controlling blood sugar levels helps with prevention, but once you have an infection, seek out the usual treatments: over-the-counter antifungal vaginal creams and suppositories, to be used as directed.

Obstructive sleep apnea
sleep apnea

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This potentially serious sleep disorder, in which the throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep, affects around 50 percent of people with diabetes, Hamdy says, especially those who are obese and have a collar size of more than 17 for men and 16 for women. The most obvious sign of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is audible snoring. Unfortunately, like gum disease, “sleep apnea may worsen diabetes control,” Hamdy says, possibly because the two conditions share risk factors. Also like gum disease, having OSA can suggest the possibility of future diabetes. A 2014 study in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicinefound that severe OSA increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes by 30 percent or more. Treatment for OSA may involve using a device to keep your airway open at night or wearing a mouthpiece that thrusts your jaw forward. In severe cases, surgery can help by altering the structure of the nose, mouth, or throat.

Vision problems
Close-up image of woman eye

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More than 4 million people with diabetes have some degree of retinopathy, or damage to the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This happens because high blood glucose levels harm the eye’s delicate blood vessels, a process that can begin as early as 7 years before diagnosis.

The early stages have no symptoms, but the longer you let things go, the darker the picture becomes. One study that looked at people with type 2 diabetes found that when HbA1c levels (a measure of blood glucose over time) rose by one percentage point, the risk of eye problems developing or worsening increased by about one-third. In 20 years, about 80 percent of people with diabetes have retinopathy, and about 10,000 go blind each year, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Kidney failure
Human kidneys, illustration

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Over time, high blood glucose thickens and scars the nephrons, tiny structures within the kidneys that filter your blood. About 7 percent of the time, you’ll already have protein leaking into your urine—an early sign of kidney problems—by the time you receive a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.

About half of those who don’t take steps to control their diabetes will sustain kidney damage within 10 years, and 40 percent of those will progress to kidney failure, Hatipoglu says—a condition requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Neuropathy
Ankle pain, conceptual image

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About half of people with type 2 diabetes will develop neuropathy, the most common diabetes complication. At first, you might have no symptoms or feel a mild tingling or numbness in your hands or feet, says Gabbay. But eventually, neuropathy can cause pain, weakness, and digestive troubles as it strikes the nerves that control your gastrointestinal tract.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/g20481244/unexpected-side-effects-of-diabetes/