Diabetes Linked to Obesity, Infertility More in Men Than Women

Men with diabetes are also much more likely than those without to develop erectile dysfunction.

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Diabetes Linked to Obesity, Infertility More in Men Than Women

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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

Men tend to put on fat in more risky areas of the body than women.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

Diabetes is dangerous for many reasons.

For those with diabetes, low-blood sugar levels can cause immediate, life-threatening situations, and a long-term pattern of consistently high sugar levels places you at greater risk for heart disease, strokes and other serious conditions.
Dr Kushal Arora

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.

But in men, diabetes presents several unique complications - sexual impotence, lower testosterone - which lead to depression and anxiety.
Dr Mahinder Watsa, Sexual Medicine Expert

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.

Anyone who smokes has triple the risk of having a heart attack. But when patients with diabetes smoke, they increase their risk of having a heart attack by about 10 times. With men, diabetes increases the risk for heart disease two-to-threefold.
Dr Anurag Sharma, Chandigarh-based Cardiologist 

Diabetes & Male Sexual Health Problems

Men with diabetes are much more likely than those without to develop erectile dysfunction.
(Photo: iStockphoto)

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:

Diabetes can affect the blood vessels and nerves of the body if blood sugar levels are not well controlled. 
Avni Kaul

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.

This loss of feeling is caused by nerve damage known as neuropathy. The damaged blood supply affects the stimulation and response of the nerves that trigger and maintain an erection and the flow of blood into the penis.
Dr Mahinder Watsa

‘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.

Women can experience less lubrication and desire for sex. Women with diabetes may also have issues such as lack of libido due to the disease. They are more likely to have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a risk factor for diabetes and can result in fertility problems.

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.

Key steps to taking better control of your diabetes or pre-diabetes condition involve adopting a healthier diet and starting a regular exercise program.
Dr Anurag Sharma

Careful management of blood sugar levels can help you avoid some of the health complications linked to diabetes.

Do your best to limit the number of calories you eat each day. Put smaller portions of food on your plate and eat more slowly so that your body has a chance to let you know when it’s had enough to eat. 
Avni Kaul

“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.

Particular foods to cut down on are: whole milk, cheese, ice cream, fast foods, butter, bacon, sausage, beef, chicken with the skin on (skinless chicken is fine), doughnuts, cookies, chocolate, some nuts and fast foods. 
Avni Kaul

(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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(This story was auto-published from a syndicated feed. No part of the story has been edited by The Quint.)

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