Does a COVID-19 infection increase the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular concerns? It’s been over two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s still so much left to uncover.
More and more health experts continue to explain why COVID-19 testing is vital more today than ever before. With new variants proving more transmissible than their predecessors, getting tested can help reduce the likelihood of serious illness and death.
What studies have been made about the increased risk of heart disease after a COVID-19 infection?
Cardiometabolic diseases are a class of widespread but frequently curable illnesses. It’s known that the COVID-19 virus can affect someone’s health months after initial infection. In fact, a study of 48 million adults in England and Wales found that cardiovascular issues can persist up to 49 weeks after infection.
Dr. Faye Riley, Senior Research Communications Officer at Diabetes UK had this to say in one of her articles:
“The evidence to suggest a link between COVID-19 and diabetes is growing, but we don’t know for sure. In a study of 47,000 people in England who were admitted to the hospital for COVID-19, 5% went on to develop diabetes seven months after they were discharged.”
* The study, however, did not take into account the patients’ weight, age, and presence of any underlying health conditions.
A Journal of the American College of Cardiology study showed that patients with a history of heart failure hospitalized for COVID-19 face almost double the risk of suffering adverse effects from the disease. Moreover, patients with pre-existing medical conditions were three times more likely to require mechanical ventilation.
How does COVID-19 increase the risk of heart failure?
COVID-19 can affect the heart in many ways. Infection causes inflammation and the cells (cytokines) release tiny proteins to spread around the body. Moreover, when your body suffers significant illness, your heart naturally works harder to keep you functioning. The more ill you become, the harder it is for the heart to keep up with the changing demands.
“What we’re seeing isn’t good. COVID-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death,” Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University and chief of research and development at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, told Medical News Today. “The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime.”
He also went on to say that patients are at risk of suffering from multiple cardiovascular diseases. These include:
- Ischemic and nonischemic heart disease
- Thromboembolic disease.
What studies have been made about the increased risk of diabetes after a COVID-19 infection?
In a study from Plos Medicine, medical experts examined the effects of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases a year after infection. The study focused on 428,650 COVID-19 patients and obtained the following data:
- The risk of diabetes increased up to 81% in acute COVID-19 and remained elevated by 27% 4 to 12 weeks after infection.
- Acute COVID-19 was associated with a 6-fold increase in cardiovascular diseases overall
- The risk of diabetes increases for at least 12 weeks after initial infection
- Chances of cardiovascular disease also increase up to three months after initial infection
How does COVID-19 affect diabetes?
Diabetes can result from insufficient insulin levels to regulate the body’s blood sugar. One study found that SARS-CoV-2 may directly infect pancreatic cells.
This will result in a significant loss in the amount of insulin produced. Another issue that experts found is how it can also impact blood sugar levels.
In another study from The Lancet, people who survive COVID-19 have a 40% higher risk of developing diabetes. It’s also important to note that some may have already had diabetes even before a COVID-19 infection. It may just so happen that the patient becomes more aware of it.
“People might have pre-diabetes with chronic, subclinical inflammation before they get COVID-19,” Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite, director of the Diabetes Technology Program at Rush University Medical Center, told Medical Xpress.
“So, when they do get infected with the virus, they could develop hyper inflammation that causes metabolic stress and more insulin resistance. As a result, they manifest overt diabetes.”
She also went on to say that it can also be a cause of hyperinflammation. The immune system can get ‘confused’ and attack its own tissues instead of the virus.
The first few weeks following a COVID-19 infection appear to be when individuals are most at risk, especially for diabetes.
Patients recovering from COVID-19 may benefit from clinical and public health measures to lower their risk of developing diabetes. It can be as simple as a change in lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise.
Given what we know about how these illnesses typically manifest, the disparities observed in the timing of heart disease and diabetes risk may not come as a surprise.
Diabetes can take time to diagnose, contributing to the more gradual drop in risk. On the other hand, heart diseases contribute to occurrences (such as a heart attack) that may lead to a more immediate diagnosis or even death.
While not everyone who got infected with COVID-19 is at risk for these diseases, COVID-19 testing is still vital. It can help curb the spread of the virus and protect those with underlying medical conditions.
If you start to experience symptoms and want to get tested in the comfort of your home, order COVID-19 testing kits here.