We know that people living with diabetes are at higher risk of complications if infected with COVID-19 compared to people without diabetes. In fact, there is about a two to three times increased risk of early death due to COVID for people with diabetes. Until now, researchers were not sure if having diabetes alone was enough to increase this risk, or whether there were other factors as well.
Older men with diabetes and other medical conditions are at greater risk
In a recent review of 22 published studies including 17,687 people, researchers found more factors that increase risk of early death from COVID-19. For example, risk factors include older age (65 years or older), male gender, using insulin, and having high blood sugar levels at the time of hospital admission. In addition, if you have another medical condition linked to diabetes, such as long-term kidney problems, heart disease or lung disease, your risk is higher too.
How does blood sugar impact risk?
In this study, there was no clear link between risk and HbA1c (a measure of blood sugar over the previous 3 months). Previously, researchers suggested that a higher HbA1c was linked to serious complications from COVID-19. For example, having a HbA1c at 7.5% or above increases risk compared to people without diabetes (and therefore lower HbA1c levels). On a positive note, Metformin (a common drug to control blood sugar) appears to protect against death from COVID. We also know that people with lower incomes have higher risk of death from COVID-19.
Overall, this shows that people with more severe diabetes are at greatest risk from COVID-19 and should be a priority for COVID-19 vaccinations.
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