This present pandemic reinforces how easily we can “catch a disease”, but the reality is that most illnesses that we suffer from are termed non-communicable diseases. They are often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which means there is so much that we can do, in terms of diet and lifestyle, to manage and sometimes reverse them.
One in three of the UK population are prediabetic, and one in fifteen people have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. At present, somebody with diabetes have a higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. Chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes can compromise our underlying immunity, leaving people more susceptible to both contracting illnesses and more likely to experience a severe case of the illness itself.
According to the data, 65% of people with diabetes will die from some sort of heart disease or stroke. In general, the risk of heart disease death and stroke are more than twice as high in people with diabetes.
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body’s ability to respond to the hormone insulin is compromised resulting in blood sugar levels that are too high.
Too much sugar circulating in the blood stream damages the white blood cells that make up the body’s immune system rendering them unable to fight harmful pathogens like viruses, bacteria and toxins, meaning that diabetics are found to be more prone to infection. Sugar also impairs the body’s antioxidants, which are needed to nullify the effects of fighting a virus such as COVID-19.
The same is true for prediabetics too, although not quite as severe. But should COVID-19 be around for a considerable time, we should all be more serious about managing our blood sugar levels.
There are around 7.4 million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases. Cardiovascular disease refers to conditions that arise when blood vessels become narrowed or blocked and blood can’t flow as freely, creating a risk for heart attacks or stroke. Similar to diabetes, reduced blood flow in individuals with heart disease due to narrowed blood vessels creates issues with proper circulation of immune supportive nutrients and impairs the efficient removal of toxins and waste.
In those with heart disease, the immune system perceives plaque inside coronary blood vessels as a foreign invader and works to eliminate it, leaving the blood vessels inflamed. As the body continues to mount an immune response against the coronary blockages, the prolonged state of inflammation that results puts a strain on the immune system as it’s continuously kept in an activated state. This activated state diverts the attention of your immune system, uses up its resources, and confuses our surveillance systems. This leaves people with heart disease more prone to infection and less able to deal with it.
Heart disease can also impact your lung function. A damaged heart can’t effectively pump blood from your lungs to the rest of the body which can raise pressure in the pulmonary veins and push fluid into the lungs, making it harder to breathe. This connection between the heart and lungs and the strain that results between the two in advanced heart disease can set the stage for a respiratory infection, like COVID-19, to cause more harm to the body’s already weakened system.
If you have high blood sugar, diabetes or heart disease, this puts you at higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19. The good news is, that if your chronic health issues are well managed through nutrition, lifestyle, and medications, the risk of getting severely sick greatly decreases.
Right now, the best way to protect yourself is to stay calm, to stay informed, and to start taking greater care of your health, by making better choices about the food you eat, the exercise you take, and how you prioritise sleep and relaxation.