A new Chinese study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, has shown that people who contracted COVID-19 but had better control over their blood glucose levels had a low death rate than those with uncontrolled diabetes.
Poorly controlled blood sugar is dangerous at any time and there is mounting evidence that COVID-19 puts diabetics at greater risk of severe illness, which is why it is imperative for diabetics to manage their blood sugar.
Dr. Prakash Deedwania, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “Diabetes is itself a risk factor for a more severe case of COVID-19.”
After heart disease, diabetes is the second most common underlying medical condition associated with severe outcomes in COVID-19 patients, making diabetics six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die.
However, controlling diabetes could make a world of difference.
Dr. Deedwania said, “One should not fear going to whatever place of care they need to go to get blood glucose under control. All of those places are open and functioning and well aware of how to make the environment safe.”
Uncontrolled diabetes could lead to long-term complications such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, retinopathy, nerve damage, and gangrene. Also, poorly controlled blood glucose levels could weaken the immune system, making the body vulnerable to COVID-19.
Dr. Joshua Joseph of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus said diabetics should stay in touch with their medical providers, adding, “They need to manage their hyperglycemia.”
Although online consultations have increased during the pandemic, Dr. Joseph recommends patients with extremely high blood sugar levels to visit the hospital.
“Management is different all over the United States,” he added. “Their care team can determine the best approach.”
Dr. Deedwania and Dr. Joseph advise diabetics to take their medications consistently as recommended and keep enough supply.
“I want to emphasize there has been some misinformation about what drugs to use or not to use,” Dr. Deedwania said, including drugs such as ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) often used diabetics to prevent heart disease.
In March, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Failure Society of America issued guidance stating that patients taking their diabetes and heart medications should continue treatment unless otherwise advised by their doctor.
Another most important recommendation is monitoring your blood sugar levels frequently and making necessary adjustments to insulin and diet to keep the figures under control.
Dr. Deedwania said, “Pay attention to what you are eating and don’t eat a lot of takeout food. Eat what you can cook at home so you know what’s in it.”
Managing stress is yet another important recommendation by Dr. Deedwania. He said, “As stress increases, it can make blood glucose go out of control.”
Dr. Joseph said it is important to “maintain strong social support networks and healthy relationships. Get physical exercise – at least 150 minutes per week. Get enough sleep. Use mindfulness and meditation, deep breathing, or listen to music.” “And of course, remember to take all necessary precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19,” Dr. Deedwania added, which includes wearing a mask in public, maintaining at least six feet distance from other people in public, and washing hands with soap and water or using a sanitizer.