Are those with diabetes at higher risk with coronavirus? And what steps can you take to protect yourself?

New research suggests people with the conditon are more vulnerable...

diabetes and coronavirus
(Image credit: Getty Images)

New data from NHS England said that almost of third of patients who have died with coronavirus had diabetes.

Previously, it was thought that just 26% of COVID-19 patients in hospital had diabetes.

But the new research explains that 7,466 of coronavirus patients, who have died in hospitals in England alone, had type 2 diabetes. 365 had type 1 diabetes.

Lead author of the data, Professor Jonathan Valabhji said that the "worrying" research "shows the extent of the risk of coronavirus for people with diabetes".

"Importantly it also shows that higher blood glucose levels and obesity further increase the risk in both types of diabetes."

Why are people with diabetes at higher risk when it comes to coronavirus?

Diabetes UK, the leading charity on the topic, explained, "This data shows that, for those who become so unwell with coronavirus that they need to go to hospital, the risk of dying is higher for people living with diabetes than people without the condition."

But its not yet clear why people with diabetes are at a higher risk of serious illness with coronavirus.People with Type 2 diabetes may be overweight, which is another known risk factor for coronavirus.

Jon Cohen, emeritus professor of infectious diseases at Brighton and Sussex medical school, told The Guardian that diabetes patients may suffer adversely because of problems with insulin control.

He said, “Bacterial infections are more common and more severe in diabetes. This has generally not been thought to be such a problem with viral infections such as coronavirus, but any severe infection can cause problems with insulin control so this too will likely contribute to the increased mortality rate in type 1 patients."

However, it is important to note that having diabetes doesn't mean you are anymore likely to catch COVID-19 than anyone else.

Diabetes UK also insisted that the chances are, you will not become seriously ill with the virus if you do catch it. They said, "The majority of people who do get coronavirus – whether they have diabetes or not – will have mild symptoms and don’t need to go into hospital.

"Remember the overall risk is still very low and will reduce even further as cases of coronavirus decline."

If you have diabetes - how can you protect yourself when it comes to coronavirus?

The best thing that people with diabetes can do at this time is simply to take care of their health and observe social distancing strictly, Diabetes UK say.

They said, "The most important thing anyone with diabetes can do is:

  • try their best to manage their condition carefully
  • keep their blood sugar in range as much as possible
  • and follow social distancing rules."

Diabetes UK also note that other things that can put you at risk of serious illness if you do catch coronvirus are being overweight, and a history of high blood sugar levels.

diabetes and coronavirus

As such, it's vital to keep these things under control right now, and to stay as healthy as possible.

Their website says, "We know that managing what you eat and how much you exercise can be difficult when you have diabetes, but now it is more important to do what you can to keep yourself safe."

Eating a healthy balanced diet full of fruit and veg, fibre, protein and carbohydrates is essential to maintain overall health for everyone, just as it is for people with diabetes.The NHS also advises that adults should aim to be active every day, doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week.

Diabetes UK's director of policy Bridget Turner said that it is incredibly important for people with diabetes especially to adhere to social distancing at the moment, too.

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She told the Evening Standard, "All people with diabetes should also follow stringent social distancing measures to reduce their chances of catching the virus altogether."

Diabates UK have also urged the government to take steps to protect those with diabetes during the pandemic.

They said, "The government needs to urgently review all of the emerging evidence and data about the risks to people with diabetes, to inform their policies around social distancing, employment guidance, and any measures around easing lockdown.

"Most importantly, the government must ensure that their policies consider the specific needs and individual risks of people with diabetes, so that they are protected and supported, and provided with clear and consistent advice on keeping safe."

Amy Hunt

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on