Lessons I’m Learning From COVID-19 and My Diabetes

By Kendra Perley

As the world begins to feel the full weight of COVID-19 and its effect on the human population, for those most vulnerable to severe complications of the disease, such as type 1 diabetics, it’s an even more concerning time. We are encouraged to take all the necessary precautions to stay healthy and help “flatten the curve.”

I have lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 26 years, and never in my lifetime has such a serious biological threat been a concern. There are still many unknowns about the coronavirus and its effects particularly in type 1 diabetes patients. Managing diabetes when ill can be a challenge, so I have taken this time to be extra diligent about controlling my blood sugars. If you have diabetes and are anxious about COVID-19, I want to offer you my perspective on the situation.

Don’t Panic

With news available to you 24/7, a lot of which is negative or aimed at raising your heart rate, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the uncertainty. Living with diabetes, you’ve been told that you may be more susceptible to severe complications of any illness and that your body doesn’t fight off infections like those of healthy individuals. And with early data coming out of China listing diabetes as a top comorbidity for COVID-19 deaths, it certainly is cause for concern. But I urge you not to panic. There are still a lot of unknowns about this novel virus, and there are reports of diabetics in the U.S. who have not had severe complications of the illness.

Take Control

There’s a lot that can’t be controlled with COVID-19. The world is working to slow it’s spread to ease the burden on the healthcare system while diligently working on a vaccine. But you may be asking what you can do to protect yourself? A recent article by Medscape revealed glucose control is key with COVID-19 in diabetes, suggesting individuals with good control of their blood sugars may not be more susceptible to coronavirus complications. I have taken comfort in the fact that my blood sugars are relatively stable, with an Hba1c just under 7%. I have taken this time to further tighten control of my blood sugars, working toward getting my a1c to 6% or less. It is never too late to start better caring for your diabetes, and now is as good of time as any. Count your carbohydrate intake and follow proper insulin dosage guidelines as determined by you and your doctor.

Exercise and Develop Good Eating Habits

With the CDC suggesting implementing “social distancing” and staying confined to your home as much as possible, it can be hard to continue your normal exercise program. Maybe your gym has closed or you are staying away to protect yourself. Whatever the case, find time to get in a little exercise. Many gyms and trainers are offering free online courses during this time, from yoga to aerobics. Find something that interests you and make time to exercise every day, even if it is just a 10-20 minute walk around your neighborhood.

Along with regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet will help control your blood sugars and boost your immune system. For me, I’ve decided to reduce my carbohydrate intake. This has significantly improved my blood sugars, and helps keep them from spiking. I prefer to get my carbs from fruits and vegetables, and limit the amount of breads and processed foods I eat. Find what works best for you and your blood sugars.

As cases of COVID-19 spread rapidly in the U.S. and around the world, we won’t know the full magnitude of its destruction until it is contained or we develop immunity. While we work to find a new normal in this age of social distancing, it is important to remain focused on your health and to find things that bring your comfort and joy. I am using this situation to enjoy more time with my family and to refocus on my health. We’ve been given an opportunity to slow down and evaluate what is truly important in life.

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