Keep Moving and Eat Better Help Diabetics with COVID-19

You don’t have to go to the gym

Maintain physical activity and limit starchy foods to manage blood sugar

Diabetes is the second most prevalent chronic disease in patients needing treatment for COVOD-19. The presence of diabetes predicts greater likelihood of medical interventions and 49 percent higher risk of dying. Unfortunately, recommendations and requirements for social distancing and avoiding public spaces lead to increased likelihood of diminished physical activity, increased sedentary time, and increased consumption of unhealthy foods. Alas, the adverse metabolic effects of unhealthy eating (poor blood sugar control, increased belly fat) can manifest in a matter of days; adverse effects of physical inactivity (poor blood sugar control, reduced muscle protein synthesis) can persist for two weeks after physical activity resumes.

Fortunately, a safe, practical, and effective solution exists: home-based exercises. Components vary depending on the program but commonly include aerobic exercises (such as marching in place, jumping jacks, burpees), strength building (using elastic bands or hand weights), and flexibility (such as tai chi or yoga). As a bonus, a do-it-yourself, home-based exercise program can significantly reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. If you’re diabetic, do yourself a favor and find enjoyable ways to Keep Moving at home.

Type 2 diabetes predisposes patients to a host of health problems, including COVID-19. Would COVID-19 patients with type 2 diabetes at admission to hospital fare worse that COVID-19 non-diabetic patients? And would patients with poorly controlled blood sugar have worse outcomes than patients with well-controlled blood sugar? A retrospective study from China followed 7,337 patients (952 with type 2 diabetes) over 28 days post admission at 19 hospitals in Hubei Province.

Patients with type 2 diabetes required more intensive treatment than non-diabetic patients. In spite of more intensive treatment, diabetic patients exhibited more multiple organ injuries than non-diabetic patients and had a significant 49 percent higher risk of dying follow-up than non-diabetic patients. Diabetic patients with well-controlled blood sugar (70-180 mg/dL) were less likely to experience kidney and heart injury and had a significant 86 percent lower risk of dying than patients with poorly controlled blood sugar (more than 180 mg/dL). Thus, carefully controlling blood sugar appears to be a critical factor for type 2 diabetics who become ill with CIVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic created huge changes in the way we American conduct our lives. These changes include stay-at-home orders, which have likely led to less physical activity and more eating. A new review from an international team of researchers identified adverse effects of even short (several week) periods on physical inactivity and overeating. Downsides included increased insulin resistance, belly fat, and inflammatory cytokines. Plus, physical inactivity and a poor diet predict increased risk of cardiovascular diseases over the long term. Decreased physical activity may not be accompanied by reduced food consumption. The key message: Find a way to maintain or increase your pre-COVID level of physical activity.

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