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Diabetes Can Increase Your Risks from COVID-19. Here’s What You Can Do to Help Prevent Both.

by Yes Health

We’re all doing our best to stay healthy right now. And while following the CDC guidelines is slowly starting to become second nature (in a dysopian kind of way at least), some of us need to take extra steps to protect ourselves from COVID-19. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the elevated blood sugar levels that come with diabetes can increase risks for respiratory and other complications. This is one reason why prevention is so important, including paying close attention to prediabetes. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar level is higher than it should be, but not high enough to diagnose diabetes. Without heathy lifestyle changes (e.g. nutrition, fitness and well-being) prediabetes can progress into type 2 diabetes.

How does having type 2 diabetes increase your risk of COVID-19?

Elevated A1C and high blood glucose levels are associated with increased inflammation. Inflammation can suppress the immune system, making it more difficult for the body to fight off infection. Inflammation can also negatively affect blood flow, which slows the delivery of nutrients throughout the body and the immune system’s ability to send infection-fighting cells where they are needed.

Viral infections of any kind can increase inflammation. This may be especially true for COVID-19. In fact, it may be a two-way street: type 2 diabetes may make the infection worse and the infection may worsen diabetes. 

What steps can you take to reduce your risk?
  1. Minimize your exposure. Social distancing, frequent hand washing, avoiding crowded areas and people who are sick are all part of your essential first line of defense.
  2. Test blood sugars oftenThis is important for two reasons: knowing your blood sugar levels at key points throughout the day makes adjusting your meals and medications much easier. Keeping blood sugars in normal ranges will also help your immune system fight off infections more efficiently. Keep in mind that a sudden rise in blood sugars that cannot be explained could be the first sign of an illness. If you need extra supplies during this time such as testing strips, many insurance companies have relaxed restrictions so you can maintain your medication supply without interruption. Check with your pharmacist or insurance company for more details.
  3. Eat a healthy diet. Be sure to include lots of leafy green and cruciferous veggies and fruit in your meals—broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower, along with onions, garlic, green tea and berries all help to support a healthy immune system. For more inspiration plus recipes, check out these articles on our blog
  4. Skip the usual suspects.Highly processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol and grains top the list of foods to avoid. Keep track of your meals on the Yes Health app and get in-the-moment coach feedback on how to make them healthier, plus tips on nutrition, shopping, meal planning and managing portions
  5. Stay hydrated. People with diabetes are naturally more prone to dehydration. Choose clear fluids (i.e. water or unsweetened ice tea) for maximum hydration. Drinking more water is especially important if you are fighting off a fever. Get in the habit of keeping a water glass or water bottle with you throughout the day.
  6. Check your ketones. When you are sick for any reason and have diabetes, ketones can start to build up, especially as blood sugar levels rise. Most pharmacies sell simple urine test strips that can help you monitor your ketone levels. If they’re high, call your health care provider for advice.
  7. Exercise regularly. Moving your body improves circulation and boosts your mood. It also helps keep your blood sugar levels in check. Here are some articles and a fun at-home workout from Coach Chloe for inspiration and motivation. 
  8. Catch some rays. Soak up the sun for 15 minutes a day if you can safely get outside for a walk or some light stretching (being mindful to avoid sunburn). This helps boost your vitamin D levels, which plays an important role in immunity.
  9. Destress. Feeling stressed out can cause blood sugars to soar. Here the coaches share healthy ways to manage and lower your stress levels, plus check out seven ways to avoid eating your feelings
  10. Make sleep a priority. good night’s sleep has been linked to better overall health, including a more robust immune system, longer attention spans, greater creativity, lower blood sugar and lower risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. 
  11. Stay in touch with your health care team. If you feel under the weather, ask your doctor and pharmacist to approve your over-the-counter medications. Some decongestants and cough medicines have added sugars and can cause blood sugars to rise, while others could interfere with your current prescriptions.
  12. Ask your Yes Health coaches and community for extra support. As we continue to adapt to these uncertain times, remember that you’re not alone. Our coaches and other Yes Health members are right here (at a safe distance on your smartphone), where and when you need them. Reach out. We want to know how you’re doing.

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