Staying Healthy With Diabetes During COVID-19
Diabetes of any type can increase the risk of infections, and COVID-19 is no exception. Extra precautions are essential during the pandemic, especially for patients living near Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, an area with high rates of both diabetes and COVID.
Recent data from China and the United States showed that people living with diabetes who contracted the virus were more likely than others to become seriously ill or die. For this reason, it is even more important now for people with diabetes to take good care of themselves and keep their sugar levels well controlled.
Here are tips on staying well during the pandemic:
Remember the Basics
Advice on managing diabetes during the pandemic has not changed. You still need to:
- Watch your diet.
- Stay active to the best of your ability.
- Take your medications consistently.
- Keep in touch with your doctors to answer your questions and guide you through whatever needs to be adjusted.
To make sure you can follow these recommendations, you need to be prepared better than ever before.
Watch What You Eat
Don’t use social distancing and home quarantining as an excuse to overeat. Healthy, nutritious food and enough liquids are a must for all of us, but especially for people with diabetes. Make sure that you have enough food in the house (as many healthy choices for diabetes as possible) for at least two weeks at a time.
This should include carbohydrates and sources of glucose to treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) if it occurs.
Exercise at Home
Don’t use social distancing as an excuse not to exercise. Be creative and find new ways to keep your body active.
Even if gyms close again, it doesn’t mean that you stop exercising. Even if you are just stretching in front of your TV or dancing while listening to music, calories are being burned, and that is what counts. Jogging in place or around your yard is great for increasing your heart rate and improving your overall heart function.
Exercise has many wonderful benefits, so do everything you can to keep both your body and your mind healthy at all times.
Be Prepared With Medications and Supplies
Make sure you have all your medications and medical supplies for at least one month. This list should include:
- Glucose testing supplies – strips, lancets, pump supplies and sensors, if you use them
- Medications – pills, insulin and other injectables
Make a clear and legible list of all the medications and supplies you need at any given time. Most insurance plans have relaxed some of their guidelines and are now allowing customers to obtain medications for longer periods of time. Ask your pharmacy to look up the maximum amount allowed by each plan. Many medical supply companies and pharmacies offer delivery free of charge.
Enlist Your Contacts
Always stay calm. If you experience a problem, be ready to ask for help.
Keep all medical and important phone numbers handy. These lists should include family contacts and all doctors and pharmacy phone numbers.
Talk with your friends and relatives frequently to make sure everybody is safe and feeling well. It’s important to also have a plan of action if something does not sound right.
Talk to Your Doctor by Phone or Virtually
Most Einstein doctors’ offices are open. Many offer virtual visits via video call through the phone or the computer.
If you are still working, you can request a medical letter from your doctor stating that you have diabetes. This allows your employer to be aware that you may need special accommodations depending on your work duties and exposure to COVID-19.
Einstein has a team of doctors called endocrinologists, who specialize in diabetes, as well as certified nurse practitioners trained to treat people with this condition. Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia also offers the Living With Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Program. This program can help people improve their quality of life by providing tools for blood sugar monitoring, healthy eating, reducing risks, keeping active, managing stress and more. The program is open to everyone, whether or not you are an Einstein patient.
Call 1-800-EINSTEIN for more information or for a referral for services.
Be Good to Yourself
Be positive. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small. Each accomplishment is a positive step in managing both diabetes and the risk of COVID-19.
Practice healthy coping. This is a good time to try deep breathing or meditation. No special skills needed. If you enjoy reading, start the book you never had the time to do before. If writing is your thing, begin journal entries. We will need to learn from each other and our experiences.
Be active where it’s safe. Activity provides a double benefit of burning calories and increasing hormones that help us feel better.
Social distancing does not mean that you are alone. We are all in this together, and we will get through this together.
For more information, visit the websites of the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists and the American Diabetes Association.
Dr. Catherine Anastasopoulou is The Steven, Daniel and Douglas Altman Chair of Endocrinology of Einstein Healthcare Network. Nurse Practitioner Catherine Garrison, CRNP; and Diabetes Educator Patricia C. Adams, RN, CDCES, also contributed to this article.