You probably already know that people with heart problems, obesity, and diabetes have a higher risk with COVID-19. These conditions increase the chances that you will need to be hospitalized, require a ventilator, and have long-lasting problems because of COVID.
Researchers are beginning to understand the links between these diseases and COVID a lot better. They have found that the virus can also trigger these problems in people who were healthy to start with.
According to recent research in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, about 14% of people who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19 develop diabetes. How?
A new study in the journal Cell shows that COVID-19 can hurt or kill the cells in the body that help produce insulin. Insulin helps keep the right amount of glucose, or sugar, in your blood. A lack of insulin causes diabetes.
Treatment with steroids, which is common in people with COVID, may also lead to new cases of diabetes. These medications are known to increase blood sugar.
COVID can also have serious effects on your heart and arteries. When the virus invades the body, it causes harmful inflammation. Inflammation can cause a blood clot that triggers a heart attack or stroke.
This inflammation can also lead to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart). And COVID can cause abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and blood clots in the lungs and legs.
About 10% of COVID patients still have symptoms—or have new symptoms—for many weeks or months after being infected with the disease. This is called long COVID or post COVID.
A recent study showed that many patients have heart palpitations, a fast heart rate or a slow heart rate, bulging veins, chest pain, and fainting. More than 90% of long COVID patients were still fighting symptoms 8 months after being sick with the disease, according to the study.
The rise in people with long-lasting symptoms has led many medical centers to start centers that focus specifically on these problems. They are coming up with new treatments for patients to help their bodies heal. For example, physical therapy and breathing exercises can sometimes help strengthen the heart after COVID.
To reduce the heart and metabolic problems that can increase the risk for COVID—or to lower the risk of them occurring after having the disease— consider following these steps:
Try to exercise every day.
This will help your heart get stronger, keep your weight low, and delay getting type 2 diabetes. Just walking can help.
Eat a better diet.
Small changes like replacing sugary beverages with sugar-free drinks helps you lose weight or keep it off.
Shed some weight.
Losing just 10-15 pounds can help delay type 2 diabetes. This can help if you are at risk or have prediabetes. Prediabetes means your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes.
Get tested for diabetes.
Have your doctor test you when go for your next visit and get tested again 6 months later. Symptoms of diabetes include needing to urinate more than usual, feeling very thirsty, blurry vision, wounds that heal slowly, and feeling more tired than usual.
Talk to your doctor about new symptoms of any kind that concern you.
Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid or lessen the severity of COVID infection and the problems that can result after coming down with it. Consider a booster shot if you are eligible and have already gotten the vaccine.
Wear a mask and keep distance between yourself and others in public spaces. Breakthrough infections can occur after vaccination, though they are much less likely.
While having COVID-19 can be frightening and difficult, doctors are getting better and better at treating the infection—and the problems that may come later.