It is an uncertain and scary world out there, especially for diabetics. Every other day we hear stories connecting complications in COVID and Diabetes.
Terms like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” are being bandied about along with Hydroxychloroquine and so on. We all understand the importance and significance of what is happening around us. But a key question on everyone’s mind is, what does this mean for me, my family, my friends and colleagues, the economy, and the world at large? It is a complex set of unknown questions, each of which warrants a separate blog post.
In this article, targeted at people who have an underlying lifestyle condition(s), we want to focus on understanding & mitigating the additional risk we carry as baggage. By lifestyle conditions, we mean type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular risk, liver/kidney disorder, obesity, or PCOS, with insulin resistance as the underlying root cause in most cases.
Diabetes & COVID 19
People with an underlying lifestyle condition like diabetes have a higher risk profile in the face of Covid-19. We have heard of enough people being asymptomatic and having mild consequences like the regular flu. But someone with diabetes might not be one of them.
Data across countries and age groups implicates people having an underlying lifestyle condition like diabetes as being the ones that face the highest risk of developing Covid-19 related complications.
- In India, the most common co-morbidities seen in covid patients are diabetes and hypertension, with both conditions being present in a large number of cases (47% were diabetic and 56% hypertensive). This is as per the current data on fatalities in India.
- In China, the death rate due to covid was highest among people with heart/lung disease followed by diabetes and hypertension.
- In Italy, less than 1% of the Covid infected population was free from chronic health conditions. Around 75% suffered from hypertension, 57% from cardiac issues, 35% from diabetes, and 18% from low renal function.
How does covid-19 affect diabetes patients?
When one suffers from diabetes, typically there is an underlying imbalance in the metabolism– the ability of the body to digest food, extract energy and then utilize this energy.
Also, cellular health and function are weakened. The body’s defence comprising immunity, the gut microbiome (beneficial bacteria in our gut), stem cells (specialized cells that help in healing injured tissue) and DNA sanctity have also been compromised.
Critical processes like autophagy (daily cellular maintenance) are also impacted. These together constitute the underlying root causes that, when unmitigated, manifest over time as lifestyle disorders like diabetes.
All these factors make the body of a diabetic susceptible to complications arising out of COVID-19.
How to mitigate the risk of Covid-19?
To swing the pendulum in the other direction, towards better health, we need to address these root causes of diabetes through the following:
- Adopt a nutritious and well-balanced diet. Diet for covid patients with Diabetes should be high in micronutrients– various vitamins and minerals that help the body’s organs and processes to function well.
- Reduce the consumption of carbohydrates and compensate by increasing healthy fats. This is required as carbohydrates get converted to glucose in the body, and higher glucose makes the hormonal imbalances around insulin worse.
- Adopt small changes in the daily routine to align our activity with our body’s clock- its circadian rhythm. Sleeping well and on time, eating in control and in a smaller window (intermittent fasting), and having dinner at least 3-4 hours before bedtime can help align our routine to the body’s clock.
- Stay calm and manage stress levels through meditation.
- Focus on basic fitness and take small steps to increase daily physical activity.