No matter what’s going on in the world, maintaining a healthy, whole foods–focused diet is important for blood sugar management.
If you’ve been keeping up with federal guidance on who’s at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19, you know that people with diabetes are among the affected groups.
People older than 60, along with those who have underlying health conditions such as respiratory problems, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and cancer are also at a higher risk for serious illness from the novel coronavirus, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, non-Hispanic Black Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, all of whom have higher rates of both diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes than white Americans, per the National Diabetes Statistics Report, are also at higher risk for serious COVID-19 disease, including complications and death, as has been widely reported.
Yet it’s still unclear whether diabetes can leave a person at an elevated risk of getting infected in the first place, notes the American Diabetes Association (ADA). This is apparently true despite research, including a review published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, showing that the immune systems of people with persistent hyperglycemia (higher than normal blood glucose, or sugar) are impaired.
Scientific Research Linking Diabetes and COVID-19 Complications
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both three to four times more likely to develop serious COVID-19 disease and be hospitalized than those who don’t have diabetes, according to a study published online in December 2020 in Diabetes Care. A small preliminary study published in the March 2020 issue of Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews provides more insight into what’s affecting the severity. It looked at 174 people in Wuhan, China, and concluded that people with COVID-19 and diabetes but without other comorbidities were at a higher risk for severe pneumonia and the inflammation that contributes to an accelerated progression of COVID-19 and a worse prognosis.
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Another study, which was published in April 2020 the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, analyzed 1,122 people at 88 hospitals in 11 U.S. states, and drew a link between diabetes and a fourfold increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Glytec, a provider of insulin software management, funded the research.
A study published online in May 2020 in Cell Metabolism supports these findings. For this cohort study, researchers analyzed the health data of 7,337 people in Wuhan with and without type 2 diabetes. They observed an association between having diabetes and an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.
Those with stable blood sugar levels had a better prognosis than those with diabetes whose blood sugar control was poor. In fact, the survival rate for those with good blood sugar control was nearly 99 percent, compared with an 11 percent death rate among those whose control was considered poor. Participants’ blood sugar levels were measured using postprandial and fasting blood glucose tests. The authors defined poor blood sugar control as tending to exceed 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), and well-controlled blood sugar as ranging from 70 to 180 mg/dL
Diabetes Complications Can Increase Risk of Severe Illness From COVID-19
Still, having complications related to diabetes, along with increasing age, may matter more than blood sugar control, suggested a study published in April 2020 in Diabetologia, which analyzed 1,317 people admitted to 53 French hospitals during a three-week period in March 2020. Study authors concluded that 10 percent of people with diabetes admitted to a hospital died within 10 days, and that men were more likely to die than women. The main contributing factors to death were having complications including neuropathy and heart disease, having a high body mass index (BMI) —indicating obesity — and being older. Patients between ages 65 and 74 were three times more likely to die than individuals younger than 55.
People with type 2 diabetes are definitely at higher risk of COVID-19 complications and death, but those with type 1 or gestational diabetes may also be at higher risk, according to recent guidance by the CDC. In the French study, 3 percent of admitted patients had type 1 diabetes, while 89 percent had type 2 diabetes. The remainder of diabetes patients had other types of the disease.
Black people who have type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 may be especially vulnerable to worse outcomes because they are more likely to present with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a condition that causes the blood to become acidic and that can be life-threatening in its own right. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in December 2020 found that 55 percent of Black clinic patients and 33 percent of Hispanic patients presented with DKA, compared with only 13 percent of white patients. “The shared risk of COVID-19 and DKA in type 1 diabetes worsens the short-term and long-term prognosis for Black and Hispanic patients,” said the study authors, also noting that “previous studies have demonstrated an increased risk of DKA among minority populations with type 1 diabetes.”
Understanding COVID-19 and Its Symptoms
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause diseases including the common cold, but also more severe illnesses, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS); severe acute respiratory syndrome ( SARS); and COVID-19, which first became known at the end of 2019 during an outbreak in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province and has since developed into a global pandemic.
According to the WHO, common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
Aches and pains
Loss of taste or smell
Pain in the muscles or joints
Discolored fingers or toes
Some infected people have no symptoms at all, but they can still spread the virus.
The CDC describes the emergency warning signs for COVID-19 in adults as:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
New confusion or inability to wake up or stay awake
Bluish lips or face
Inability to rouse or stay awake
If you are experiencing these symptoms, call 911 or call ahead to the hospital and let them know you are seeking care for COVID-19 or may have it, the CDC advises.
If you are interested in getting a test and want to know how to proceed, contact your local or state health department. The CDC lists state and territorial departments, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials has a directory you can use to find your local department.
For most people, the disease is mild, and many don’t develop symptoms at all. A South Korean study published in August 2020 in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at young people, the vast majority of whom were healthy, and found that 30 percent of those infected with the virus causing COVID-19 never developed symptoms at all. COVID-19 symptoms are mild for most others, although 10–15 percent of infected people do become seriously ill, and 5 percent become critically ill, according to WHO. Mortality estimates vary, but a New York–based study published in October 2020 in the Journal of Hospital Medicine found that 7.6 percent of hospitalizations resulted in death in August, down from 25.6 percent in March, when infection began to spread in the United States.
It’s important to note that the risk of death from COVID-19 is far greater than from influenza (flu), a disease it is frequently compared with. More than 340,000 people died of COVID-19 in the United States in 2020, according to CDC data. In contrast, the nation loses between 12,000 and 61,000 people per year to influenza, reports the CDC.
Source: Everyday Health
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