How Controlling Your Diabetes Reduces the Risk of COVID-19 Complications

Stable blood sugar levels can mitigate your risk level.

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It’s natural to be nervous about the COVID-19 pandemic—especially if you have diabetes. People with diabetes are an “at-risk” group because they are more likely to have serious complications of COVID-19.

However, you can reduce your risk. Early statistics show that people with stable blood sugar levels likely have a lower risk of serious complications, compared to those with high or unstable levels.

“The most important thing someone with diabetes can do to lower their risk of COVID-19 complications is to control their blood glucose, control their blood pressure, control their body weight, and to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, and mask wearing,” says Minisha Sood, MD, endocrinologist.

The Role of Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar levels can have many effects on the body. For example, it can damage the blood vessels (increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases) and the nerves (leading to neuropathy). Learn more here about complications of diabetes.

Additionally, “high blood sugars compromise the immune system's ability to fight off infections, including COVID-19,” says Dr. Sood.

The high blood sugar both causes chronic inflammation in the body and triggers something called a cytokine storm. This is “an overreaction of the immune system which could lead to severe complications of COVID-19,” says Dr. Sood. “It could increase the risk of hospitalization or more severe pneumonia or respiratory failure.”

Managing Your Risk

There are actions you can take to reduce your risk of serious complications. For starters, it’s important to stick to your treatment plan during the pandemic. You should continue:

  • Taking your medications and insulin as prescribed
  • Eating a diabetes-friendly diet
  • Staying physically active (like taking a walk)
  • Checking your blood sugar regularly

You might also want to take additional precautions during the pandemic. For example, you can make an action plan with your doctor so you know what to do if you get sick. You should also make sure you always have at least a 30-day supply of your medications.

“If someone is having trouble managing their diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's important to get in touch with your healthcare provider,” says Dr. Sood. “Make sure that you not only have enough medications and testing materials, but also to discuss any symptoms that are arising because early treatment could be life-saving.”