Since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, health experts have been attempting to determine why exactly, becoming infected with the virus proves deadly for some, while others show mild or even no symptoms. Over the last several months, they have pinpointed a variety of risk factors, ranging from age to heart health. Now, according to researchers from the NHS and Imperial College London, there is another preexisting condition that can heavily influence your death risk if infected with the coronavirus.
The new study claims that people who suffer from the coronavirus who have Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—are twice as likely to die than those who do not suffer from diabetes. Those with Type 1 diabetes—the autoimmune form of diabetes—fare worse if infected. According to the study they are more than three-and-a-half times more likely to die. In total, researchers found that one-third of all COVID-19 deaths have one thing in common—diabetes.
Furthermore, those who are also severely obese, with a body mass index (BMI) above 40, are twice as likely to die than those who were obese or normal weight.
“This research shows the extent of the risk of coronavirus for people with diabetes and the different risks for those with type 1 and type 2 diabetes,” Prof Jonathan Valabhji, NHS England’s national clinical director for diabetes and obesity and the study’s lead author, said. “Importantly, it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes.”
In other words, lifestyle choices can strongly influence your death risk when it comes to the highly infectious virus.
“This can be worrying news but we would like to reassure people that the NHS is here for anyone with concerns about diabetes—and has put extra measures in place to help people and keep them safe, including online sites to support people to care for themselves, digital consultations, and a dedicated new helpline for advice and support for people treated with insulin.”
A previous study conducted by researchers at Wuhan Union Hospital published in the journal Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews, established a link between people with diabetes who contract COVID-19, and severe illness. Researchers found that patients who had diabetes but no other serious health problems were “more susceptible to an inflammatory storm eventually leading to rapid deterioration of COVID‐19.” This being at a “higher risk of severe pneumonia, release of tissue injury-related enzymes, excessive uncontrolled inflammation responses, and dysregulation of glucose metabolism” compared to patients without diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 34.2 million people of all ages—or 10.5% of the US population—have diabetes. The percentage of adults with diabetes increases with age, reaching 26.8% among those aged 65 years or older. The government health agency also points out that you can “prevent or delay” Type 2 diabetes even if you are genetically predisposed and at high risk via “proven, achievable lifestyle changes.”
As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.