The Relationship Between Obesity and COVID-19 in Individuals with Diabetes

November 08,2021 |
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Living with a chronic condition is difficult. It requires ongoing management and care to ensure that you stay healthy and reduce your risk of serious complications over time. Living with two chronic conditions is even harder, especially when the two are inter-related. Roughly 85% of adults living with type 2 diabetes are obese and even gaining a few extra pounds increases your risk of diabetes exponentially. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve began to see an even more devastating relationship. The relationship between obesity and COVID-19 in individuals with diabetes can result in life-threatening situations, which is why making healthy decisions is essential. Here we’ll provide more information to better understand how the three are related and share steps you can take to decrease your risk of serious, long-term complications.

How COVID-19 Affects Your Body

For the past few years, we’ve been hearing a lot of information on how COVID-19 affects individuals. To get a better understanding of how obesity and diabetes play a part in overall risk, it’s important to understand how the infection originates and what it does to your cells and bodily functions.

Coronavirus enters your body the same way many other viruses do—through mucus membranes like those in your mouth, nose, and eyes. Once the coronavirus enters your body, it uses unique, spike-proteins to attach to the receptors of healthy cells, primarily those located in your respiratory system. Once this connection is made, the COVID-19 virus begins to control the cell, replicate, and eventually destroy healthy cells.

The virus continues to replicate and move down your respiratory tract and into your lungs. This is why many people who show symptoms experience a shortness of breath, fever, cough, fatigue, and a sore throat. COVID-19 is primarily respiratory, but can also result in chills, body aches, headaches, congestion, nausea, diarrhea, and a loss of taste and/or smell.

Many people who have strong immune systems are able to fight off COVID-19 without hospital intervention. About 8 to 10 cases are mild, but there are a select number of people who develop more serious symptoms. If symptoms worsen, it could result in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can damage tissue and lead to a reliance of a ventilator. Individuals who have coronavirus that develops into ARDS have a higher risk of mortality.

Since COVID-19 is still fairly new, the long-term effects of infection are unknown. While some people experience “long-COVID,” others feel fine after a week or so. To reduce your chances of developing severe cases of COVID-19, it’s important to make healthy choices, get vaccinated, and properly manage any chronic conditions.

The Impact of Obesity on Your Body

Body image is a controversial topic in today’s society and many people have tried to create more positive discussions regarding obesity. However, obesity is a serious, chronic condition that takes a heavy toll on your body and all of its systems. Obesity increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, liver disease, cancer, gallbladder problems, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, skin fold rashes, depression, kidney failure, weakened muscles and bones, infertility, joint pain, type 2 diabetes, and more. In short, it affects almost every single part of the body, including your brain and nervous system.

Obesity and COVID-19

After a multitude of scientific studies, it’s been found that obesity is also intrinsically linked to more severe COVID-19. Obesity increases the risk of serious illnesses that are associated with COVID-19 and may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection. This is likely because obesity decreases the function of your immune system, decreases lung capacity, and increases the difficulty for overall ventilation. The risks for hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death increase with increasing BMI (obesity levels).

Obesity-related conditions are among the leading causes of preventable, premature deaths in the United States. This includes death from obesity-related heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. While body positivity is important for your mental health, making unhealthy lifestyle decisions are not safe over time and will drastically increase your risk of developing one or more life-threatening conditions. If you need help losing weight, reach out to your doctor today.

Diabetes and Cellular Function

Diabetes affects almost every system in your body due to its effect on blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and cholesterol levels. Diabetes raises blood pressure and cholesterol levels while reducing stability in your body’s ability to control blood glucose levels. These three factors lead to cascading effects on your cellular function and how your body works together to stay healthy.

While diabetes can affect any part of the body, there are certain areas that are more highly affected than others. For example, diabetes and coronary heart disease are very closely related and those living with diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease and heart attacks over time. Due to the impact of diabetes and your blood vessels and nerves, it’s also closely related to an increase in strokes. To reduce your risk of suffering heart disease or stroke, diabetes management is essential.

Some other complications that can arise from living with diabetes include diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic nephropathy, gastrointestinal issues, skin problems, foot ulcers, problems with wound healing, and more.

If you’re living with diabetes, it’s essential that you take care of yourself and regularly check your blood glucose levels throughout the day. At the first sign of any type of complication, problem, or distress, contact your doctor or a medical professional immediately. The sooner that you identify a problem, the less likely it is to worsen.

Understanding Obesity, Diabetes, and COVID-19

At the start of the pandemic, it was quickly realized that COVID-19 was more severe for some than it was for others. This is especially true for those living with chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes. While having either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes increases your risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, type 2 diabetes is more often associated with obesity. Obesity and severe obesity can also increase your risk of becoming more ill from COVID-19 related illnesses and symptoms. This risk increases as BMI gets higher. Since many people living with type 2 diabetes are obese, their risk for severe cases of COVID-19 becomes even higher.

While this may seem daunting, vaccines have been highly successful in decreasing the severity of COVID-19. Not only is the risk of infection lower, but those that do experience breakthrough cases will have shorter, less severe illnesses. Talk to your doctor today about getting vaccinated to help reduce your risks, especially if your obese or living with type 2 diabetes.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle with Type 2 Diabetes

While the vaccine can help protect you from COVID-19 related complications, living with type 2 diabetes still requires a change towards more healthy lifestyle choices. Luckily, there are plenty of ways for you to boost longevity while living with type 2 diabetes. Some of the best things that you can do include eliminating excess sodium, fat, and sugar from your diet while focusing on creating healthy, nutritious diabetes meal plans. Not only will you help stabilize your blood glucose levels more naturally, but you’ll also reap the benefits of the vitamins and minerals that are present in whole foods, which in turn, help you lose weight and reduce your risk factors for serious complications.

Another healthy lifestyle to incorporate is exercising. Exercising can help you lose weight and improve your immune system, both of which are essential for reducing the severity of COVID-19 and maintaining a healthy, long-term diabetes management plan. Start slow and try to do something that challenges you every day. This could mean going for a walk after dinner, hitting the gym for weightlifting, taking an extra yoga class, or hiring a personal trainer. Small changes lead to big results, so don’t try to rush into anything too serious or you’ll find yourself back at square one.

Finally, make sure that you’re regularly checking your blood glucose levels and talking with your doctor to ensure that your diabetes management plan is working for you. You can delay or prevent type 2 diabetes and if you’re diagnosed, there are plenty of actions you can take to help you live a long and healthy life. Always see your doctor for regular checkups and if you begin to experience any symptoms of a diabetes-related complication or COVID-19, seek medical attention immediately.

To help make sure you’re doing everything you can to manage your diabetes effectively and reduce your risks of serious complications, Byram Healthcare has a range of continuous blood glucose monitors. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for comprehensive care.