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What do we know about COVID-19 and diabetes?

What do we know about COVID-19 and diabetes in South Africa? That’s the question everyone wants to know on Diabetic South Africans. There’s not enough data in South Africa to report on diabetic stats from our own country, but we do know that it’s one of the top co-morbidities for COVID-19. And we can look at what has happened with COVID-19 and diabetes in other countries for guidance.

COVID-19 and diabetes in South Africa

This is the latest data from the Western Cape. What this doesn’t tell us, of course, is whether these people had Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, whether their blood sugar was in good control, whether they were overweight or obese, or had other underlying health conditions.

Facts about COVID-19 and diabetes

So here’s what we know:

There is only one COVID-19, but it affects people differently. Some people get it and are asymptomatic (no symptoms at all). Some feel like they have bad flu. Some have bone chills, vomiting, coughing and extreme fatigue (tiredness). Some need to go to hospital so that they can be put on a ventilator.
And some die.

What makes you more likely to get the serious version of COVID-19?

  • Age (over 55 years old)
  • Poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Overweight or obesity

Type 2 diabetes and COVID-19

This research study looked at Type 2 diabetics who got COVID-19, and the effect of good blood sugar control on their outcomes (whether they recovered or died).

… We found that well-controlled BG (glycemic variability within 3.9 to 10.0 mmol/L) was associated with markedly lower mortality compared to individuals with poorly controlled BG (upper limit of glycemic variability exceeding 10.0 mmol/L) during hospitalization. These findings provide clinical evidence correlating improved glycemic control with better outcomes in patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing T2D.

Association of Blood Glucose Control and Outcomes in Patients with COVID-19 and Pre-existing Type 2 Diabetes

What does this mean in English? Those who kept their blood sugar in range (3.9 to 10mmol/l) had better chances of surviving COVID-19.

Image credit

Risk factors for COVID-19

It seems that whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, the risk factors are uncontrolled blood sugar and obesity.

According to the report, the research showed that severe obesity doubled mortality risks in COVID-19 patients with Type 1 diabetes, and increased it by almost half in those with Type 2. High blood sugar, which is associated with uncontrolled diabetes, also significantly increased the dangers, doubling the mortality risk in Type 1 diabetics and raising it by more than 60% for those with Type 2.

Diabetics make up a third of England’s COVID hospital deaths

COVID-19 and diabetes in South Africa: reduce your risk

We asked endocrinologist (diabetic specialist) Dr Sundeep Ruder what South African diabetics can do to reduce their risk of COVID-19. Here is his straightforward advice:

  1. Lose weight if you need to.
    We know that being overweight or obese is a major risk factor. Here’s how to lose weight with diabetes.
  2. Eat whole foods as much as possible.
    Immune-boosting healthy food like vegetables and healthy proteins. Here are healthy diabetes diet tips.
  3. Continue taking your medication.
    As prescribed by your doctor.
  4. Avoid blood sugar spikes.
    Aim for an HbA1c of 7%, which is blood sugar of 8mmol/l or below. Here’s all about the HbA1c.
  5. Exercise, every day.
    Here are fun exercise ideas.
  6. Get some fresh air and sunshine.
    Vitamin D (from sunshine) is supposed to be helpful in fighting COVID-19.
  7. Continue with the golden hygiene rules.
    Masks, social distancing, wash hands, stay home if you can.

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  1. […] Here’s what we know about COVID-19 and diabetes in SA – there’s not much local research yet. A lot of diabetics have been worried about getting coronavirus, especially because it’s the top co-morbidity in many South African cases. So we asked on our Diabetic South Africans if there were any diabetes survivors of COVID-19. Here are their stories. […]

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.