Written by Lauren Hamory. Reviewed by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDE.
COVID-19 has forced a lot of us to abandon our typical routine and navigate our environment with certain precautions. During stressful times, it can be easy for our health to take a back seat to other priorities. For those with type 2 diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is important for maintaining overall health during stress or sickness. We are still learning about how COVID-19 affects different individuals, but it has been established that a person with type 2 diabetes has a greater risk of developing complications if infected with the virus. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, are 12 times more likely to pass away from COVID-19 (1).
High blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia, can negatively affect the immune system, decreasing its ability to fight off infection. Additionally, when a person becomes ill, the body uses various hormones to fight the infection, causing blood sugar levels to increase and insulin effectiveness to decrease. To clarify, this does not mean that if you have diabetes you face a greater risk of getting the virus, however, you may be more likely to develop complications if you do contract the virus.
The Added Stress of COVID-19
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is a major source of stress on people, especially those with underlying health conditions. Prolonged stress can negatively affect people with diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels, requiring temporary adjustments to medications or food intake. This stress can be further amplified by numerous pandemic-related issues including unemployment, homeschooling children while working from home, relying on government assistance for food, or losing insurance coverage.
These disturbances in day-to-day activities can make managing blood sugar levels even more difficult and onerous. It can be easy to neglect our health by abandoning our healthy diet and physical activity regimes. However, because of the complications that could result from COVID-19, it is imperative for people with type 2 diabetes to pay close attention to their health and blood sugar levels.
Managing Our New Normal
Managing diabetes during this stressful time should include frequent blood sugar checks, eating a healthy and balanced diet, remaining physically active, and continuing to check in with your doctor. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a person with diabetes is less likely to develop severe complications from COVID-19 if their blood sugar is well-managed (2).
There are many resources available to people with pre- and type 2 diabetes. Below is a list of organizations and programs helping those with chronic illnesses.
- The ReversingT2D 10-Week Program is an online program available for individuals who need help learning how to reverse pre- and type 2 diabetes.
- There are many free fitness apps that allow you to take exercise classes from the comfort of your own home.
- Look for new recipes - pull out those old cookbooks and dog-eared magazine recipes for inspiration or search whole food, plant-based recipes online for healthy options.
- Many doctor’s offices are now offering Telehealth appointments, making healthcare professionals more accessible.
- This website provides a state-by-state list of drive-thru COVID-19 test sites that are kept up-to-date as new information becomes available.
- For those who may be having a lapse in insurance coverage, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has ways to search for community health centers or public health departments in your area.
Regardless of what your new normal looks like, it is important to keep your diabetes management at the top of your to-do list. This new routine means we have to get creative with ways to stay healthy. Use the extra time at home to try healthy recipes or new foods. Take walks in a nearby park or go for a hike on that trail you always pass by. Try incorporating daily meditation even if it's just for 5-10 minutes! Making your health a priority is more important now than ever. Managing both your blood glucose and the added stressors from this pandemic are the best ways to protect yourself during these unpredictable times.
(1) Stokes, E., MPH, Zambrano, L., PhD, et al. (2020, June 18). Coronavirus Disease 2019 Case Surveillance - United States, January 22–May 30, 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6924e2.htm
(2) How COVID-19 Impacts People with Diabetes. (2020). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.diabetes.org/coronavirus-covid-19/how-coronavirus-impacts-people-with-diabetes
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