World Diabetes Day 2020: COVID-19 Adds to Existing Concerns of Blood Sugar Control

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November 13, 2020


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World Diabetes Day, which was created in 1991, falls this year on Saturday, Nov. 14, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which is surging again across the U.S.

The observance of World Diabetes Day was launched nearly 30 years ago in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes. In the U.S., an unrelenting obesity epidemic since then has intensified those concerns. But adult-onset diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, can be prevented, and even adults who have been diagnosed with type 2 can overcome serious complications from the disease.

More than 34 million Americans are living with diabetes, and another 88 million are living with “prediabetes” (about 1-in-3 adults), a serious health condition that increases a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Having prediabetes means your blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal—but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes can lead to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes. Prediabetes can often be reversed.

“If you’re pre-diabetic, there is a good chance you can delay the appearance of diabetes or prevent it outright,” said Pascual De Santis, M.D., an endocrinologist with Baptist Health Primary Care. “If you’re already diabetic, and you initiate intervention, then you are going to either significantly delay or prevent long-term complications.”

Those serious, long-term complications can include including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and even lower-extremity amputations. “It’s important that you see you doctor right away if you feel you are at risk for diabetes,” Dr. DeSantis stresses.

The A1C test is a common blood test used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. If prediabetes is detected, you can partner with your healthcare provider to take steps to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes. According to established guidelines, people should have a glucose level of no higher than 140 mg/dl after meals, and glucose should return to pre-meal levels within 2 to 3 hours. However, blood sugar targets may be different depending on age, any additional health problems, and other factors. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which targets are best for you.

Since the COVID-19 epidemic, several studies have established that people who have diabetes are more susceptible to serious illness from the coronavirus. Although, diabetics are not any more or less susceptible to contracting COVID-19, compared to people without diabetes.

Researchers and scientists are still trying to determine if COVID-19 can cause diabetes, which would be an alarming complication. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder, and that makes it possible that the coronavirus can have an impact on insulin-producing pancreas, which regulates blood sugar levels or raises the level of glucose in the blood. Insulin allows blood sugar (glucose) to enter cells, where it can be used for energy. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin or can’t use it effectively, blood sugar builds up in the blood.

Weight management is a major risk factor for diabetes, explains Dr. De Santis. Poor dietary choices that are high in simple carbohydrates, most commonly found in processed and refined sugars, and sugary drinks have contributed to the obesity epidemic, and in rising cases of diabetes.

“Usually, you need to lose 5 to 10 percent of your body weight if you’re pre-diabetic to reduce your risk of conversion to diabetes,” says Dr. De Santis. “So the point is that any type of weight loss, especially 5 percent or more, can actually help you very much.”

Who is at Risk for Prediabetes and Type 2 Diabetes?
If you have these risk factors, you may be at higher risk than others for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • You are overweight.
  • You are 45 years of age or older.
  • Your parent or sibling has type 2 diabetes.
  • You are physically active fewer than 3 times per week.
  • You ever gave birth to a baby that weighed more than 9 pounds.
  • You ever had diabetes while pregnant (gestational diabetes).

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