In 2020, Covid-19 has placed a spotlight on the immune system.
In conversations about health and wellness, the immune system doesn't come up much. Until now, we've tended to talk about obesity and heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Those of us with a passion for prevention and maximizing our human 'health-span' generally talk about lifestyle and taking action to avoid these chronic conditions, while the rest of the medical community talks about managing poor health (after it arrives) with medications. The functionality of the hugely complicated miracle that is the immune system has been assumed to be fine until we get sick and either undergo a treatment which is known to derail the immune system (such as chemo for cancer), or are diagnosed with an immune disorder. Most of us don't have any real idea of the state of our own immune system and how it might handle a new, major threat like Covid-19.
The Covid-19 response is still evolving. What is unknown vastly outstrips what is known - about the virus itself, if and when medications and vaccinations will be available, what the next few years hold for all of us, and if this brave new 21st century has more, as yet unknown biological assaults in store.
Here at Cheat Diabetes our passion is diabetes prevention. There were MANY good reasons in the past to get your A1c checked and do what you needed to do to stop the progression of prediabetes to diabetes - but sadly there are even more reasons now.
Here are a few tidbits that I have gleaned in the past week:
1. From the abstract of this paper: Type 2 Diabetes and its Impact on the Immune System (full article is behind a paywall: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31657690).
"Hyperglycemia in diabetes is thought to cause dysfunction of the immune response, which fails to control the spread of invading pathogens in diabetic subjects. Therefore, diabetic subjects are known to [be] more susceptible to infections. The increased prevalence of T2D will increase the incidence of infectious diseases and related comorbidities."
2. From "Why Covid-19 Kills Those with Diabetes" in Diabetes In Control (full article is behind a paywall: http://www.diabetesincontrol.com/why-covid-19-kills-those-with-diabetes/).
"People with diabetes and Covid-19 have a greater chance of developing severe viral illness, and five times the risk of dying, vs those without diabetes."
This article discusses how an underlying low-grade inflammation in people with type 2 diabetes (due to higher-than-normal blood sugars and insulin resistance) prevents the immune system, when faced with a major threat such as Covid-19, from responding quickly and with force. The paper also highlights that reducing A1c (measure of blood sugar) into the normal range can be helpful to the body in combatting any virus. The paper goes on to address specific situations for those who have diabetes and may be feeling ill.
At this point, I think we're all wondering how well-poised our own immune systems are for handling something like this.
Of the 34 million Americans that have diabetes (stats as of 2018 from the American Diabetes Association) 7.3 million of these were undiagnosed - meaning over 7 million Americans are running high blood sugars (that can play havoc with the immune system) and don't know it.
And it is estimated that of the 88 million Americans - that is 1 in 3 Americans! - that have prediabetes, OVER 80% don't know they have it. That's roughly 70 million folks walking around with higher-than-normal blood sugars, unaware that they need to TAKE ACTION to protect their health and stop prediabetes in its tracks to avoid unnecessary diabetes.
There are so many moving pieces when considering the health of the immune system. One that I bet few people are thinking about is their blood sugar. Is it high? Are you heading towards a lifetime with diabetes? When things settle (as much as they can) and you feel safe, you owe it to yourself to get your A1c checked. 💖
P.S. There is A LOT you can do to prevent prediabetes OR to turn things around and get that blood sugar down if you have prediabetes. If you want to learn more, here's the free Cheat Diabetes fact page.
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