According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes. That is a staggering number which translates to more than 1 in every ten. While Type 1 diabetes is caused by insufficient insulin production in the body, Type 2 is a result of the body becoming resistant to insulin. That makes managing Type 2 diabetes tricky.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters complicated for diabetics. It is up to the person suffering with the disease to make good or bad out of this pandemic. Here is some detail on how the life of diabetics is affected by the pandemic.
Is there an Increased Risk of Getting the Virus?
The first thing to clarify is the risk of getting COVID-19 faced by people suffering with Type 2 Diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Organization, there is not enough data to point out that diabetes can increase the risk of catching diabetes.
What is alarming, though, is the fact that having diabetes can cause complications if someone gets COVID.
Complications in the Case of Infection
The American Diabetes Organization has said that people who have diabetes are at a higher risk to develop serious complications from COVID. Generally speaking, people who have diabetes are likely to have more severe symptoms of COVID-19 in case of infection.
However, it has also been established that diabetics who have their blood sugar levels well maintained are at a lower risk of getting severely sick from the virus. However, people having multiple chronic conditions in addition to diabetes, like heart disease or hypertension, can get extremely sick with the virus. This is because such conditions decrease the body’s ability to fight viral infections and viruses can only be cured by the immune system and not any external medicine or antibiotics, like in the case of bacterial infections.
COVID, like any other viral infection, also increases internal swelling of organs in people who have diabetes. Resulting from high blood sugar levels, this inflammation can further worsen conditions for diabetics.
One of the very serious health risks facing any diabetic is that of Diabetic Ketoacidosis, or DKA. It is a condition where the body starts breaking down fats at a much higher rate than they can be processed. Resultantly, the liver converts them into ketones, causing the blood to become acidic. This change in the pH of the blood can be life threatening.
If a diabetic person gets sick with any viral infection, like COVID, the risk of DKA increases. Although the chances of getting DKA is higher for Type 1 Diabetes patients, Type 2 ones are also at risk.
What really complicates things is that DKA makes fluid management challenging. This can lead to electrolyte imbalance and that makes managing sepsis difficult. Sepsis, the body’s extreme reaction to infection can lead to septic shock which is, by far, considered the worst complication caused by COVID-19.
Managing Type 2 Diabetes During the Pandemic
The good news for people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes is that the pandemic has given them a chance to improve their and manage diabetes effectively.
Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Weight
According to crowdsourced data from 13K users, one of the most effective treatments for Type 2 diabetes is maintaining a healthy body weight. The most prominent benefit of having a healthy weight is decreased insulin resistance and better blood glucose level management. A 2014 study has even shown that weight management can delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes in people at the risk of getting this disease.
What’s even better in the scenario of this pandemic is that people with diabetes now have time. They can use this time to manage their lifestyle and adapt such habits which can lead to better weight management and resultantly a well-controlled blood sugar level.
Tips for Managing Type 2 Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association, recommends the following for the people suffering with Type 2 Diabetes:
- All adult individuals, especially the ones with Type 2 Diabetes need to decrease the amount of time they spend in sedentary mode.
- People with Type 2 diabetes who have to sit for prolonged periods of time should engage in light physical activity every 30 minutes.
- Type 2 diabetes patients need to have exercise daily, or atleast on alternative days. This helps with blood sugar regulation.
- It is recommended for adults who have Type 2 Diabetes to perform both aerobic and resistance exercises.
Other than an active lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, diet is an important thing that can help manage Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetics can take advantage of the time they are staying at home to follow a healthy diet in the days of the pandemic. As a general rule, diets high in proteins and fats and low in carbohydrates are the best for managing diabetes. However, the dietary requirements vary from person to person and case to case and should be selected by coordinating with a registered physician.
Supplements and Herbal Products
As of now, Type 2 Diabetes cannot be cured, it can only be managed. While having a healthy lifestyle and diet are important and do help in maintaining optimum blood glucose levels, another thing that can help is the use of dietary supplements. Some of these contain vitamins and minerals, and others have herbal extracts.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the biggest concern regarding supplements is that most of them are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The safest options are the ones that have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) seal on them.
Diabetes is a medical condition that affects nearly 10% of all Americans. There is no way to permanently cure this disease. The only way to a healthy and normal life for diabetics is by managing their lifestyle and diet. Luckily, diabetics are not at an increased risk of getting coronavirus but can use this time to adopt healthy lifestyle and dietary habits to better control their blood sugar levels and hence avoid the countless health complications caused by diabetes.