COVID and Diabetes: What Doctors Want You to Know
Concerns about connections between Covid and diabetes are rising, but it’s unclear what that means to your health. Does a Covid infection mean you’ll develop diabetes?
No, not necessarily – however, it does raise a bigger issue that’s had health experts worried for years – the growth of underlying health conditions in the pandemic caused by poor lifestyle habits. Have you been putting off your health? It’s not too late. There’s a lot you can do to protect your health. Even if this pandemic has you in the worst state of your life, with a better understanding of your body, alongside support and medical insight, your health can improve Here’s what doctors want you to know about Covid, diabetes, and your health.
Does Having Covid-19 Mean You’re at Higher Risk of Diabetes?
In early 2022, a research study suggested after Covid-19 infection, there may be a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The study looked at 35,000 adults with mild cases of Covid-19 and found more of them developed type 2 diabetes, than adults of the same demographic affected by non-Covid-19 viruses. However, the story may not be that simple, or dire.
How Your Pandemic Lifestyle May be Increasing Your Risk for Diabetes
- Weight gain
- Eating pattern changes
- Lower physical activity
- Sedentary lifestyles caused by:
- Working from home
- Fitness center closures
Dr. Danine Fruge, Medical Director at the Pritikin Center explains this is not evidence that Covid-19 causes diabetes. “The research is limited, and so the answer is unclear… what I do know is during the past two years of the pandemic the vast majority of people developed risk factors with weight gain, sedentary lifestyle, and food changes (some ordered in more or ate more convenience, processed foods).” The stress a Covid-19 infection puts on the body may be sufficient to speed up the development of underlying health issues, such as this the development of type 2 diabetes.
How Covid May Impact Insulin and Blood Sugar
Viral infections, including Covid-19, cause inflammation. The inflammation can cause damage to the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, called beta cells. In addition, inflammation may also alter how tissues respond to insulin, making them less reactive, what is called insulin resistance. “Inflammation has been known to be associated with diabetes – multiple viruses have been evaluated. But, whether or not this causes insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes), it’s unclear,” explains Dr. Fruge.
Can an Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Help?
Inflammation is very real. But, research documented in multiple journals shows that you can lower inflammation from multiple causes (body fat, autoimmune) with lifestyle medicine. “Inflammation is something you don’t have to keep. It’s like a smoldering fire. Certain things will make inflammation flare into a forest fire, which can affect organs. It’s not surprising that we’ll see diseases associated with this, but there’s something we can do about it.”
Many studies have found adopting a healthy lifestyle can effectively lower inflammation in the body – many researchers used the Pritikin Program as the lifestyle protocol in their studies. The Pritikin Longevity Center Program has also been shown to be effective in lowering inflammation in children.
How to Know if You’re at Risk for Diabetes after Covid
Belly fat is an indicator of concern. “If you’ve noticed an increase in abdominal fat (under the ribs, above the hips),” cautions Dr. Fruge. “Those fat cells in that area create chemistry that makes inflammation worse, that’s why people with central obesity had far worse outcomes with Covid infections – being thick in the belly area is dangerous.”
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Have You Been Putting Off Your Health During Covid?
Connections between Covid-19 infections and increased incidence of type 2 diabetes development is raising awareness of a problem many public health experts have been reportedly concerned about – the growing incidence of prediabetes and alarmingly ineffective systems in place to prevent diabetes development. “There’s no doubt that chronic disease is on the rise and not just diabetes – researchers also found a correlation with increased heart disease and kidney disease, which are caused by some of the same risk factors (hypertension, obesity) which have an association with lifestyle and that’s what Pritikin specializes in.”
3 Things You Should Know about Covid and Diabetes
- If you’ve had Covid, it doesn’t mean you’ll get diabetes.
- If you have diabetes, having a Covid infection doesn’t have to keep you from reversing diabetes.
- Researchers currently recommend monitoring blood glucose after recovery from mild Covid-19 infections, and medical support to screen for diabetes. Dr. Fruge adds, “Even in children or adults with no family history of diabetes – it’s very cost-effective to do a simple blood test, called HbA1C.” An HbA1C test helps you see how balanced your blood sugar has been over the last 3 months.
Can You Fix Metabolic Changes Caused by Covid-19?
No matter what your health, there is a lot you can do to improve your health and reduce your risk of developing serious disease. “The good news is if you catch a health problem, and you want to do something about, lifestyle can be extremely effective,” says Dr. Fruge. “We’ve had people coming to us to get back on track since the start of the pandemic… some who found themselves in the worst shape of their lives have already begun to see positive changes…this pandemic was very challenging for even those who have been healthy.”
Doctors Warn of Wider Pandemic Health Effects
The rising number of diabetes patients seen in the studies could be a sign of a looming problem: uncontrolled blood pressure, weight gain, and lack of physical activity are among many of the increased risks for chronic disease, including heart and kidney disease. Chronic disease is on the rise, and it may be the legacy of the Covid pandemic, warns doctors. “Those people who got pushed aside during the pandemic, as physicians tried to keep those infected alive, didn’t get the medical care they needed,” remarks Dr. Fruge. Doctors are exhausted and trying their best to catch up with those who haven’t had routine check-ups. Early detection is key in optimizing your outcomes and ability to enjoy life to its fullest.
Get the Support You Need
In-depth medical support can help detect underlying health conditions that may put you at risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes. That’s what happens during a stay at Pritikin.
The Pritikin Longevity Program is a Physician-supported 2-week Wellness Program, that includes:
- 45-minute, one-on-one consultation with a Physician
- On-site Medical Expertise (Cardiologists, Endocrinologists)
- Comprehensive blood analysis
- Personal Training and Exercise Consultation
- Nutritional Educational Seminars & Luncheons
- Hands-on Wellness Excursions
- Lifestyle and Stress Management Workshops
All at a tropical luxury resort with golf, tennis, pools, and a lavish spa.
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- Incidence of newly diagnosed diabetes after Covid-19. Diabetologia 2022.
- Consumption of a healthy dietary pattern results in significant reductions in C-reactive protein levels in adults: a meta-analysis. Nutr Res 2016 May; 36(5): 391-401.
- A short-term diet and exercise intervention ameliorates inflammation and markers of metabolic health in overweight/obese children. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2012 Aug 15; 303(4): e542-550.