Diabetics at a higher risk for hospitalization, serious complications from COVID-19


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — People with underlying health conditions are at a greater risk of serious complications from COVID-19 and that includes those with diabetes.

Walter Clair, MD, MPH, Executive Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer of the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute​, said diabetics’ immune systems are not as robust and to some extent, they are living with low-level chronic inflammation.

Dr. Clair said data from the World Health Organization shows more than seven percent of people who have died from COVID-19 have diabetes, but the true number is likely higher.

“Many of them are undiagnosed,” Dr. Clair said,  “About 25 percent of our diabetic patients are walking around not knowing they have diabetes.”

A recent study in a publication of the American Heart Association shows eye-opening statistics about how COVID-19 affects diabetics more seriously. Of those with the virus who don’t need to be hospitalized, six percent have diabetes, of those who are hospitalized, 24 percent have diabetes, and among those in intensive care on ventilators, 32 percent have diabetes.

“You can see that as you move from a less sick to a more sick population, there’s a greater prevalence of diabetes,” Dr. Clair said.

Even though our routines have changed, Dr. Clair said it’s more important than ever that diabetics stay on their eating plans and medication regimens to maintain healthy blood sugars. If you have diabetes and get sick, take action immediately.

“They should not recall the neighbor who had COVID or a respiratory problem and decided to ride it out. Instead, they should think about the people who waited until it was too late,” Dr. Clair said, “They need to get in and get checked sooner rather than later.”

Dr. Clair’s advice for lowering your risk factors when it comes to COVID-19 and complications is the same for diabetics as it is for everyone. Focus on the fundamentals: eat healthy, exercise and practice good hand hygiene.

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