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How COVID-19 Impacts People with Diabetes

The World Health Organization has found that people with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for experiencing more severe complications from COVID-19, and are at a higher risk for death also.

Three extreme conditions they have highlighted are diabetes, cardiac disease, and lung disease.

Statistics Indicating the Impact of Diabetes Worldwide

Around 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, and 1.6 million deaths are attributed directly to diabetes every year. Both the number of cases as well as the prevalence of diabetes has steadily increased over the last few decades.

More than 99 per cent of Italy’s coronavirus deaths were found to be the people who suffered from pre-existing chronic medical conditions as per the study by the National Institutes of Health. Nearly half of the victims suffered from at least three previous illnesses, and about one in four had one or two pre-existing health conditions. Over 75 per cent had high blood pressure, about 35 per cent had diabetes, and one third had heart disease.

In China, where most cases have occurred so far, people with diabetes have experienced much higher rates of severe complications and death than people without diabetes — and, in general, it is believed that the more health conditions someone has (such as diabetes and heart disease), the higher their chances of getting serious complications from COVID-19.

Why it Matters for People with Diabetes?

The increased concern is understandable since diabetes is a chronic condition. As per medical experts, people with diabetes get infections at a somewhat higher rate than those who do not have diabetes and can often have poorer outcomes, which is why it is essential to get recommended vaccinations. When people with diabetes develop an illness due to fluctuations in glucose levels and other complications can be harder to treat. If someone with diabetes becomes ill, it is particularly important to consult the doctor to get a diagnosis done so that it can be treated with proper care. If someone with diabetes is unable to keep down fluids, they should seek medical attention so they can receive intravenous fluids to keep safe. In general, when someone with diabetes gets sick, it simply gets harder to manage. Staying hydrated, nourished, and constantly checking blood sugar levels is crucial.

Responsible diabetes management remains imperative alongside the practice of social distancing. If individuals with diabetes manage their condition effectively, COVID-19 poses about the same risk of getting extremely sick as the general population.

Fluctuating blood sugar, caused by unmanaged diabetes, generally increases the risk of complications associated with diabetes. As with other viral infections, having heart disease or other complications in addition to diabetes could worsen the chance of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 because your body’s ability to fight off an infection is compromised. Viral infections can lead to increased inflammation among people with type 1 diabetes and an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

How to Take that Extra Care to Keep Diabetes Under Control in this Situation?

Ensuring that medicines are refilled, washing hands, not touching one’s face, and staying at home are steps individuals with diabetes can take to help mitigate COVID-19 spread, and help to manage their diabetes effectively throughout the pandemic.

Maintaining adequate supplies of oral drugs to manage blood sugar, insulin, and any related supplies, such as syringes or pens, insulin pump supplies, pen needles, glucose strips, lancets, alcohol swabs, ketone strips, glucagon on hand, will help individuals and caregivers restrict public space trips.

Boost Your Immune System

There are steps you can take to boost your immune system and lower your risk of getting infected. First and foremost comes controlling the blood sugar levels. High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, makes your immune system much weaker. Our experienced doctors can coach you in making lifestyle choices that improve blood sugar levels, including monitoring and responding to blood sugar and following trends, making the nutrition decisions that follow, staying relatively active, and taking medications.

Many healthy lifestyle choices can result in strengthening the immune system. Fortunately, most of them can also improve blood sugar level.

Some of them are:

  • Getting plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants from vegetables and fresh fruits
  • An adequate amount of sleep
  • Managing stress
  • Be physically active
  • Avoiding alcohol

Our doctors can help you to implement these changes and guide you in making small steps to establish habits that help you to take that extra precaution in dealing with COVID-19.

Special Precautions for Diabetic Patients

Managing blood sugar is one of the most important steps someone with diabetes can take to lower risk for COVID-19. Whether you are always vigilant or you have room for improvement, PatientMD can be by your side as you take charge.

  • Monitoring blood sugar as often as the doctor suggests.
  • Checking your blood sugar trends and linking them to actions such as healthy eating or extra activity.
  • Choosing lower-sugar foods and beverages, and having more vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
  • Adding bits of physical activity to your day to keep insulin sensitivity higher.
  • Taking medications as prescribed.

Home-based exercise for people with diabetes

As an effective measure to control COVID-19 pandemic, governments in many countries have restricted the free movement of their citizens, and requested or enforced confinement in to the home environment. Regular physical activity is highly recommended to the general population and even more for people living with diabetes.

Here is how to build a basic home-based routine for a workout of 25 to 30 minutes.

Treadmill: A one-hour brisk walking, which can also be divided into three 20-minute sessions. And if possible to simulate an uphill walk, the slope should be adapted to individual fitness levels.

Stationary bicycle (either reclined or classic) : two 15-minute sessions at variable intensity. The sessions on a reclined bicycle can be longer, as the backrest reduces effort.

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, deep stationary lunges, sit-ups or crunches (for strengthening the abdomen) and forward flexes. These help maintain muscle tone and can have excellent results when performed in the right way.

What to Do if You Get Sick?

Stay home, when you start to feel sick. Check the level of blood sugar in your blood more often than usual. COVID-19 may lower your appetite and may cause you to eat less, which may affect your levels. You also need more fluids than usual when you are sick. Make it a habit of drinking water often. Some over-the-counter medicines that relieve virus symptoms like fever or cough can affect your blood sugar levels. Many liquid cough and cold medicines are high in sugar, which can raise your blood sugar levels. Before you take them, consult with the doctor. Mention your doctor if you have taken them, and your blood sugars are out of control. Schedule a telemedicine appointment with one of our experienced doctors if you get coronavirus like symptoms such as a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath. Have your most recent blood sugar and ketone readings available to share with your doctor.

Hence, patients with diabetes should always ensure that they have a sufficient supply of their medications and refills, if possible. Do visit our blogs section as often as possible to remain updated with some vital pieces of information. Stay healthy and stay safe!!