By now, it’s hard to not have heard the warnings that senior citizens are more susceptible to COVID-19. Adults aged 60 years and older are more likely to experience more severe symptoms or death should they contract COVID-19 than younger populations.
There are two reasons for this:
- As we age, our immune system naturally declines
- Older adults are more likely to have underlying conditions or diseases that depress an immune system
One such disease is diabetes — which affects more than 10% of the U.S. population overall.
Below are some Purdue Extension recommendations on steps that those living with diabetes can take to protect themselves:
Follow the Stay-at-Home Order
If you must go out for any reason, make sure your trip is truly essential.
- Limit physical contact between those in your home and those outside your home.
- If you must go out, maintain social distancing recommendations of 6 feet between you and others.
- In such a public setting, the Centers for Disease Control now recommend wearing cloth face coverings. For a guide on how to create your own cloth face coverings, visit the CDC website.
- Do not go out if you are feeling ill, showing signs of illness or have been in contact with someone sick / tested positive for COVID-19 in the last two weeks.
Stress can wreak havoc on a diabetic’s blood sugar levels and, in turn, further depress the immune system.
- Reach out to a friend, doctor, counselor or community leader who can help
- Discuss your concerns and how you are feeling with whomever you trust
- Participate in activities you enjoy and make time to unwind
- If you feel stress, anxiety or depression, contact the Disaster Distress Helpline
- Call (800) 985-5990
- Text TalkWithUs to 66746
Get Sufficient Sleep and Physical Activity
Even as our schedule is disrupted, we should maintain these routines to go hand-in-hand with stress management. (The typical adult needs at least 8 hours of sleep.)
- Set regular times to fall asleep and wake up
- Make time for daily physical activity to encourage restful sleep
- Limit your screen time while in the bedroom
Keep Your Medications Filled
Don’t wait until you’re running low on medications to reach out to your pharmacist.
- Do not skip medications that are prescribed to you
- Work with your pharmacy and care team to ensure you don’t run out of medication
- Regularly check and log blood sugar levels so you can observe any trends
Eat Healthy Foods
Maintaining your healthy eating habits is key to keeping your immune system strong — as overeating or undereating can be detrimental to your health.
- Regularly space your meals and snacks
- Ensure each of those includes a consistent amount of carbohydrates
- Consult these Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tips on healthy carbohydrates
Call Your Doctor if You Feel Ill
Remember: Those living with diabetes are already more susceptible to illness and more severe symptoms.
- Consult your insurance company and care team to learn your options before you need them
- Call your doctor for recommendations if you are not feeling well or have concerns
- Consider telemedicine appointments to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19
While there are additional precautions to take amid the COVID-19 pandemic, taking care of your health, getting plenty of rest, eating a balanced diet and participating in daily physical activity can help get you the immune-system boost you need.
Tonya Short, Health & Human Sciences Educator, Purdue Extension – Knox County