Diabetes and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Diabetes and COVID-19:  What You Need to Know

By Victoria Falk

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minority groups, with high rates of death in African American, Native American, and LatinX communities. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) agree that people with diabetes experience higher rates of severe complications and death due to COVID-19 than people who do not have diabetes.  Also, the ADA warns that people who already have diabetes-related health problems are more likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19, than people with diabetes who are otherwise healthy, regardless of whether they have type-1, type-2, or gestational diabetes. 

According to the ADA, the body’s ability to fight off viral infections can become compromised when blood sugar levels fluctuate or above target levels. The CDC recommended the following:  that people with diabetes continue taking their pills or insulin, as usual, test their blood sugar levels regularly and keep track of results, have at least a 30-day supply of all essential medicine and insulin at home, contact your healthcare provider if you feel sick, and follow the healthcare provider’s instructions.  If you are struggling to pay for insulin during this pandemic, speak to your health care provider immediately and contact the ADA for a listing of resources available to help during this pandemic.

“I’m doing okay.  I call my doctor regularly and have everything I need at home.  I don’t mind being at home because I know that I’m at high risk if I’m in the streets, “said Lisa, who has diabetes. “My doctor said that I have an emergency, but I’m not “the emergency.” He said the office is crowded with coronavirus patients, but I should call the office if I feel sick.  The doctor called to check on me a few times.  But I monitor my blood sugar at home.  I ordered a thermometer and a blood pressure monitor,” said Larry, also diabetic.

While some diabetic patients are becoming more self-reliant and are maintaining contact with medical providers via telephone and video chats, it is important to know how to recognize health concerns.  The CDC identified the following emergency signs for diabetes people: shortness of breath, persistent pain, or pressure in the chest, confusion, and bluish lips or face.  The CDC’s list of warning signs for COVID-19 includes fever, headache, sore throat, dry cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, the new loss of taste or smell, and diarrhea.  If you have any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you call your doctor.  If you do not have a doctor, locate the nearest COVID-19 free testing center in your community.

Rupert Knights, known throughout the community as Brother Rojo,  is a community educator, vegan chef, author, the founder of Powerful Pioneers, and a “Wellness Warrior.”  On November 5, 2020, I met with Brother Rojo to discuss diabetes and what he has noticed amongst his community.  He invited me to observe his Alkaline Wellness Lifestyle Class, where he shared tips with students on preventing and managing diabetes. 

Brother Rojo has been teaching the course for years. However, since the pandemic interest in this class has grown.    

“There are pros and cons,” said Brother Rojo. “The community has become more interested in health and wellness, and more people are seeking information.  However, social media is taking over, and people are going for anything.  People are claiming to be experts, are taking advantage of others, and selling health information for thousands of dollars.  People are capitalizing on the ignorance of others. 

Plus, people are on Google looking for answers to important health questions.  Who is Google?  You have to be careful about believing everything you see online because you have no idea where that information is coming from,” cautioned Brother Rojo.  

Brother Rojo encourages his students not to think of their health as an idea you pick up and put down. “Alkaline wellness is a lifestyle.  These diseases are commercial,” said Brother Rojo, before showing his students snacks that are being marketed to the Black communities that contain harmful ingredients. 

“Imagine how many people will want to buy these snacks because there are pictures of their favorite Rappers on the packages, not knowing how harmful the ingredients are to their bodies,” said Brother Rojo. Brother Rojo discussed the importance of healthy food choices to prevent and manage diabetes.  People with diabetes who control their blood sugar levels experience more favorable outcomes and lower their likelihood of dying from COVID-19. 

Brother Rojo encouraged students to prepare their food at home. “Everything is about balance.  You never want your sugar level too low or too high.  You want to stay neutral,” said Brother Rojo.  His students took notes as he gave tips on which foods to eat, tonics that help maintain good health, and herbs that help neutralize the body. “We have to get back to our roots – go back to granny,” said Brother Rojo as he recalled what he learned from his elders and “sacred knowledge from the ancestors.”

Whether it is from community educators like Mr. Knights, also known as Brother Rojo, the American Diabetes Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or another reputable source, make sure to stay informed during this pandemic.  The better you are at preventing or managing diabetes, the better your chances are to have positive outcomes if exposed to COVID-19.  

If you would like to learn more about the Alkaline Wellness Lifestyle classes and Powerful Pioneers, call (347)772-5879 or follow #ISAYWELLNESS on social media.

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