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Are those living with diabetes at more risk of contracting COVID-19?

Hello, I’m Dr. Ralph Abraham, consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at the London Diabetes Centre. I’m often asked about the impact of having diabetes and hypertension or blood pressure problems with COVID infections. It’s the most common question I’m asked.

There is now clear and increasing evidence that patients with metabolic disease, that’s the little cluster of diseases called diabetes, high blood pressure or hypertension, abnormal cholesterol, triglycerides, and obesity, all fair less well, if they get infected with COVID-19. To my knowledge, there is no clear evidence that having these conditions makes you more likely to get COVID-19 infection, that’s till it’s down to being exposed to the virus, and crowded environments, and contact and droplets and so on.

So what could be the possible reason for the higher fatality rates in patients with diabetes, hypertension, or obesity, or all three. There’s no doubt that the figures are worse if you have any of these three conditions. They independently of COVID, of course, are associated with high rates of heart and kidney disease. And of course, some ethnic populations, particularly Asians and black West Africans are known to have higher rates of these conditions. So it’s clear that there is a genetic influence and there is also associated economic influence, as these diseases are, of course found more commonly in poorer communities. Like age and sex, which are probably the most powerful determinants of fatality, now with a COVID-19 infection. All these other co-morbidities as they’re called, or other illnesses seem to make one’s risk of being able to survive the virus much lower. And fatalities are known to be higher if you have.

So we don’t understand yet why some people survived the virus, yet or succumb to it and there is a huge amount of research going into this. It’s very likely that genetic and immune responses are likely to be involved in these differences. So the message is clear, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity, take COVID-19 very seriously. Follow self isolation measures implicitly and do not take risks, it’s better not to get the infection in the first place.

Remember that the virus can lie on surfaces so wearing gloves if you touch door handles or use transporters sense. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently. Make sure your metabolic measurements, your weight, your blood pressure, your glucose levels are all under control and that you have adequate supplies of your medication. Keep in touch with your doctor and get advice when you need it.

You can always contact us at the London medical website on or you can phone us on 08000483330 for an appointment, or medication. Please stay healthy. Eat sensibly, try an exercise and stay cool. Thank you for listening to me.

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