Coronavirus and type 2 diabetes: How to reduce the risk posed by COVID-19
Coronavirus has exposed the fragility in all of us and the structures that we depend on. The daily death count, overstretched hospitals and teetering economy all point to this vulnerability. What’s more, the virus seems to be targeting specific groups, such as those with underlying conditions, such as diabetes.
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Combined, this creates this impression that we are at the mercy of this disease and there is nothing we can do to stop it. However, Dr Sam Rodgers, medical director at Medichecks suggests people can take steps to minimise the risks posed by the virus.
She says: “There are two important messages we have for the public. Those of us who are lucky enough to be in general good health should be safeguarding that, even if self-isolating.
“That means keeping active and understanding your personal nutritional needs; making sure you have the essential vitamins your immune system needs to better fight off infection.”
She continues: “This advice is even more crucial for those who suffer from underlying health conditions. Our own data reinforces a range of studies showing that a healthy diet and exercise can cause rapid reversal of serious conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and lung conditions – in as little as three to four weeks.
“In a pandemic environment, people can feel helpless and scared, particularly when faced with worrying statistics around the danger COVID-19 poses. We’re hoping to empower them to consider what positive actions they can take to give their bodies that extra help to minimise risk and help fight infection. Being the healthiest ‘you cannot be underestimated – it could be lifesaving.”
So, if you have type 2 diabetes, what lifestyle adjustments can you make to minimise the risk posed by COVID-19?
According to Natasha Fernando – head of clinical excellence at Medichecks, the key is to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
Why? “If these sugar levels in the blood are persistently high, the immune response to invading germs is reduced,” explains Ms Fernando.
Viruses and bacteria also thrive better in high sugar environments.
She explains: “This is why diabetics are more prone to infections and suffer worse effects compared to others who are not diabetic.”
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Ms Fernando recommends the Pritikin program, which consists of Have a high fibre, low fat diet of whole grains and lots of fruit and veg with daily aerobic physical activity.
It involves 45-60 minutes of aerobic exercise daily as well as a high fibre, low-fat diet with an emphasis on whole grains, fruit, and vegetables.
According to Ms Fernando, the results of participants taking part in this study are encouraging.
71 percent of participants who were taking medication to control their blood sugar were able to stop taking their medication as a result of the program – and 76 percent of the people who weren’t taking medication saw their blood glucose levels fall to non-diabetic levels.
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How much exercise should you do to reap the optimal benefits?
“I would suggest exercising for 150 minutes to 300 minutes (2.5 – 5 hours) per week as this level of exercise has been proven to have significant overall health benefits,” advises Ms Fernando.
As she notes, the current social distancing measures may complicate this approach, as you can’t go to a public gym to exercise, but you can go for a walk or jog outside in an open uncrowded space.
“If you are in social isolation & feeling well in yourself, you could always do star jumps or jogging on the spot without leaving your home,” she says.
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“During this difficult period of supermarket food stock shortages, it is perfectly acceptable to resourcefully rely more on tinned, dried & frozen produce,” says Ms Fernando.
Which underlying health conditions are currently considered most at-risk?
According to the NHS, conditions that may increase your risk include:
- Lung conditions, such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis
- Heart disease, such as heart failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Liver disease, such as hepatitis
- Conditions affecting the brain and nerves, such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), a learning Disability or cerebral palsy
- Problems with your spleen – for example, sickle cell disease or if you’ve had your spleen removed
- A weakened immune system as the result of conditions such as HIV and AIDS, or medicines such as steroid tablets or chemotherapy
- Being very overweight (a BMI of 40 or above)
“The advice for people who may be at increased risk from coronavirus is the same as for most other people,” explained the health body.
You should only leave the house for very limited purposes:
- Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible
- One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
- Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
- Travelling for work purposes, but only where you cannot work from home
People most at risk are being contacted by the NHS.
“Speak to your GP or care team if you have not been contacted and think you should have been,” says the health site.
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