So far, data suggests elderly and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart disease and lung problems are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections. These people are also at greater risk of a poor outcome if they become infected with the deadly virus.
Now, a new study has suggested that controlling blood sugar levels is the key to fighting the COVID-19 infections for people with diabetes. The researchers found that COVID-1 patients with Type 2 diabetes (T2D) were less likely to die if they had their blood glucose well controlled than those with poorly controlled T2D. Also, those with well-managed T2D received less of other medical interventions and had fewer health complications.
Therefore, the researchers from China suggested that people with diabetes should take extra care to keep their blood sugar under good control during the pandemic. The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
It is estimated that more than 500 million people around the world have Type 2 diabetes (T2D). Previous studies have observed that people with this condition fare worse with COVID-19. But the researchers have been trying to understand the role a person's blood glucose control on COVID-19 outcomes.
Surprisingly, researchers the Wuhan University in China found favourable outcomes in well-controlled blood glucose group among patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing type 2 diabetes.
"Considering that people with diabetes had a much higher risk for death and various complications, and there are no specific drugs for COVID-19, our findings indicate that controlling blood glucose well may act as an effective auxiliary approach to improve the prognosis of patients with COVID-19 and pre-existing diabetes," said study senior author Hongliang Li of Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University in China.
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For the result, the research team studied 7,337 confirmed COVID-19 cases enrolled among 19 hospitals in Hubei Province, China.
The data showed that people admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and T2D required more medical interventions. Despite those interventions, they also had significantly higher mortality (7.8 per cent vs. 2.7 per cent) as well as a greater incidence of multiple organ injury.
However, the researchers found that people with well-controlled blood sugar and COVID-19 were less likely to die than those whose blood glucose was poorly controlled. Moreover, those with well-managed T2D also received less of other medical interventions including supplemental oxygen and/or ventilation and had fewer health complications.
According to the Chinese researchers, their new findings offer three main messages for people with diabetes:
They should take extra precautions to avoid becoming infected
They should take extra care to keep their blood sugar under good control during the pandemic.
Once infected, patients with diabetes should have their blood glucose level controlled to maintain it in the right range, in addition to any other needed treatments.
The researchers said they will continue to study the relationship between T2D and COVID-19 outcomes. They hope to learn more about the underlying biology that is leading to poorer outcomes for people with T2D and high blood sugar.
Health complications related to unhealthful blood sugar levels
When left unchecked, high blood sugar can lead to diabetes. When your body can't effectively transport sugar from blood into cells, your blood sugar level increases. Also known as hyperglycemia, high blood sugar occurs when a person's blood sugar is over 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
For people with diabetes, it is important to keep blood sugars at target levels to avoid serious complications from the disease. They should aim to keep their blood sugar levels under 100 mg/dL before eating and under 180 mg/dL after eating. This can help them significantly reduce their risk of adverse effects from the disease.
Over time, unhealthful blood sugar levels can damage small and large blood vessels in several organs and systems. This can lead to serious consequences, such as:
Vision impairment and blindness
Foot ulcers, infections, and amputations
Kidney failure and dialysis
Heart attacks and strokes
Peripheral vascular disease - reduced blood flow to the limb