By: Edwin A. Velarde, President of Rotary Action Group for Diabetes

The COVID-19 Pandemic have affected every one of us, devasted humanity around the world affecting many families, and hundreds of thousands have lost their lives.  I know, us Rotarians, our hearts ache for what this unprecedented times have brought upon us and we feel especially for the less fortunate.

Pandemic information from around the world, ItalyFranceSpainNew YorkLouisiana and many other places hit hardest have shown that diabetes and prediabetes, (among others) are the leading pre-existing/underlying conditions that have experienced severe (to mortality) reactions from the COVID-19 virus.

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition that causes high blood sugar levels. In general, infectious diseases such as COVID-19 are more serious in people with diabetes.

When people suffering from diabetes develop a viral infection, it can be more difficult to treat due to fluctuating blood glucose levels.  According to the International Diabetes Federation, “There appear to be two reasons for this – “Firstly, the immune system is compromised, making it harder to fight the virus (COVID-19) and likely leading to a longer recovery period. Secondly, the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose.”

Latest statistics reveals 463 Million people suffer from diabetes and half are unaware of their condition.  Although the onset on diabetes is increasingly affecting younger agemajority of type-2 diabetes are among individuals age 45 & older.

About 80% of people with diabetes are unable or not managing their diabetes properly according to Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.

Dr Larry Deeb, Endocrinologist, BOD Rotary Action Group for Diabetes (RAGD) and Past-President of American Diabetes Association, recommends, “People with diabetes need to be especially vigilant and work very hard not to contract the disease (COVID-19).”

Rotary Action Group for Diabetes echoes Dr. Deeb’s recommendation and urge everyone that have diabetes to protect themselves from COVID-19.

In addressing those 50% that are unaware of their diabetes condition, which can be the population at greater risk to COVID-19, Dr. Deeb continue to explain, “Just to give an example, in many people admitted for open heart surgery, only then is the diabetes discovered that has likely been present for years.  Had the diabetes been discovered years earlier, the heart disease risk would also have been known and very likely treatment directed at both could have prevented the heart attack. Far too many people with diabetes do not know they have the disease.  Many may not consider themselves at high risk and not take the extra precautions to prevent contracting the COVID-19 virus.”.

What does this have to do with Rotarians? 

Rotarians are in the age group majority that have diabetes which places us in high risk from COVID-19.  During this Pandemic and through the easing back into our normal lives soon, Rotarians need to know their health status so we can accordingly, take added precautions against COVID-19.

Rotary Action Group for Diabetes recommends to Rotarians and their families to be tested for diabetes.  There are simple blood tests that are available.  Your family physician can guide you on how you can be tested.  Also, at minimum, you can assess your risk of diabetes by taking CDC’s Diabetes Risk Test – https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/takethetest/ or the Finnish Diabetes Risk Assessment – https://www.diabetes.fi/files/502/eRiskitestilomake.pdf.

If you have diabetes, it must be treated and managed properly.  Take extra care in keeping your blood glucose level within healthy range.  Higher blood glucose level compromise immune response.  Eat healthy meals and understand what food makes your blood sugar spike and minimize or avoid them.  Do not miss any medication.  During disaster emergencies, make sure you have ample amount of prescribed medicine.  Consult your physician for knowledge with regards to your condition and heed their advise.

Exercise have been proven to help boost insulin efficiency whether produced naturally or injected.  Find time to engage in physical activity.  The CDC recommends minimum total of 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Knowledge of your health condition could prove to be life-saving for you and your love ones.  The world needs Rotarians.  We do many good things in the world and positively affect people’s lives.  We need to stay healthy so we can continue to help humanity, especially these days.

Wish everyone safe passage through these unprecedented times.

Learn more about diabetes and Rotary Action Group for Diabetes at https://rag-diabetes.org.

Edwin A. Velarde has been a Rotarian since 1994, a Past-President of RC Westlake Village, California., Edwin has been living with type-1 diabetes for many decades and founder of the advocacy project – EPiC Journey Against Diabetes through which he raise awareness of diabetes, it’s perils and the global diabetes epidemic.  Edwin was featured in Our World section of September 2019 issue of Rotarian Magazine which detailed his 1,200km bicycle journey from London to the Rotary Convention in Hamburg engaging many Rotarians, Rotary Clubs and Districts along the way.

International Diabetes Federation
Diabetes United Kingdom
Diabetes Australia

This article was originally published in Spring 2020 Newsletter of Rotary Action Group for Diabetes.