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Infectious Diseases

Updated 06 May 2020

Blood sugar control for diabetics more vital than ever during coronavirus pandemic

Research shows those with diabetes might be more susceptible to serious complications, should they become infected with the coronavirus. Fortunately, you can protect yourself.

As we know by now, those with underlying conditions and chronic health issues are more likely to suffer serious consequences should they become infected with the new coronavirus.

According to a study reported in the journal Cell Metabolism, there is evidence that those with type 2 diabetes are more likely to suffer serious complications, should they be infected with the new coronavirus.

Luckily, if blood sugar is well-controlled, this might not be the case, according to experts. 

"We were surprised to see such favourable outcomes in well-controlled blood glucose groups among patients with Covid-19 and pre-existing type 2 diabetes," says senior author Hongliang Li of Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in a news report

"Considering that people with diabetes had a much higher risk for death and various complications, and there are no specific drugs for Covid-19, our findings indicate that controlling blood glucose well may act as an effective auxiliary approach to improve the prognosis of patients with Covid-19 and pre-existing diabetes."

According to Dr Zweli Mkhize, the South African Minister of Health, data from patients who have been hospitalised suggest that co-morbidities do exacerbate the symptoms and cause a more negative outcome during the Covid-19 pandemic. He specifically referred to diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disease in his report.

According to the latest figures, about four million South African adults have diabetes – a prevalence of 12.8%. Li’s study also shows that those admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and have type 2 diabetes as a co-morbidity are more likely to require more medical interventions and are generally higher at risk of more serious symptoms. 

A better outcome for controlled blood sugar

Li also mentioned that those with better-controlled blood sugar levels and a generally healthier lifestyle are less likely to suffer serious consequences from Covid-19, and are less likely to die from complications. He says that this highlights the importance for those with diabetes to keep on monitoring their condition throughout the pandemic.

Li pointed to three new findings:

  • People with diabetes have a higher chance to die of Covid-19, and should take extra precautions such as self-isolation and physical distancing. 
  • People with diabetes should keep on monitoring their blood sugar level to keep it under control. 
  • If a diabetic does become infected, a medical expert should constantly monitor their blood sugar level. 

Take extra care

While diabetes should be controlled all-year-round, it’s especially important during the Covid-19 epidemic. Here are some more tips from a previous Health24 article:

  • Take your medication properly and according to your doctor’s instructions. Contact your medical expert regularly to discuss any potential side effects.
  • Eat a healthy diet – try and avoid processed, greasy, sugary food. 
  • Aim for moderate exercise, at least three times a week.
  • Manage your stress as well as you can, as stress releases cortisol, which inhibits the effects of insulin. 
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Don’t hesitate to go to the doctor for important check-ups. If you are, however, uncertain whether you should go to the office, call to make sure. 

READ | Why is coronavirus a bigger worry for people with diabetes?

READ | Mkhize: Health sector must manage chronic patients amid Covid-19 - or it may bring a new challenge

READ | Understanding the risky combination of diabetes and the coronavirus

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