Diabetes Linked to Obesity, Infertility More in Men Than Women
Diabetes is an ancient disease, but the first effective drug therapy was not available until 1922, when insulin revolutionized the management of the disorder. Despite ample research and treatments available, there is one troubling fact about diabetes: men who suffer from this lifestyle disease have it worse, on average, than women with diabetes.
And the reason for this inequality?
“It is a combination of factors. The first being physiology - the bodies of men and women are of course not the same,” says Dr Kushal Arora, a Chandigarh-based endocrinologist.
The Male Predicament
Diabetes is dangerous for many reasons.
Diabetes is a disease where the blood sugar runs too high, usually due to inadequate insulin. It can cause terrible long-term complications if it is not treated properly. The most common serious complications are blindness (“retinopathy”), kidney failure requiring dependence on a dialysis machine to stay alive (“nephropathy”), and foot and leg amputations.
So diabetes that is ignored or untreated leads to nerve and kidney damage, heart attacks, strokes, and eyesight issues.
Also, a study published in the journal BMJ Open in 2016 found that men are at a high risk of diabetes after less relative gain in their weight than women are. This study elaborates how men are biologically more susceptible and need to gain far less weight than women to develop diabetes. Men also tend to put on fat in more risky areas of the body than women.
It may be prudent to consider that men tend to smoke more as well. Smoking is a major health hazard for anyone, but smoking is especially dangerous for people with diabetes because it narrows the blood vessels. Blood vessel constriction can worsen high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetic related sexual problems, and limb amputation.
Diabetes & Male Sexual Health Problems
The experience of diabetes is sex-differentiated for other reasons, too. Men with diabetes are much more likely than those without to develop erectile dysfunction, hampering their sex lives. This means they are unable to have sex at all, because of effects that prevent an erection of the penis, or cause the erection not to last long enough.
Erections rely on blood flow to the penis and a good nerve supply to make them happen. Avni Kaul, nutritionist and wellness coach, founder of Nutri Activania, certified diabetes educator from Project Hope and International Diabetes Federation, says:
Complications in blood flow affect the body majorly by causing a loss of feeling - this could be in the feet, hands or elsewhere, says Dr Mahinder Watsa, sexual medicine expert.
‘Non-performance’ also leads to esteem and psychological issues in men. And that is a whole new can of worms.
Women can also have problems with sex resulting from long-term high blood sugar levels.
Keep the Sweet Spot
While it may be worrying to compare the effects of diabetes on men, the good news is that these complications can almost always be prevented if you keep your blood sugar near the normal range.
Careful management of blood sugar levels can help you avoid some of the health complications linked to diabetes.
“The best way to keep blood sugar low is to eat a healthy diet and do regular exercise. Just 20 minutes of walking 4 or 5 times a week can do wonders for lowering blood sugar”, says Dr Kushal Arora.
The other thing that helps manage diabetes is limiting saturated fats (bearing in mind the risk of cardiovascular complications) in your diet.
(Aarti K Singh is an independent writer with close to two decades' experience in various media. Having worked in radio, TV and print media, she is now indulging in her passion to rediscover the world, besides juggling a PhD and raising her son.)
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