Written by: Mary Anne Peck, Mary Anne Peck: Writing and Workshops
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and it is a chance for our community to learn more about the treatment options for diabetes, the complications that come with this condition, and the ways we can work together to prevent future diabetes cases.
As the world recovers from the initial outbreak of the pandemic, it is important to stay informed about the effects of COVID-19 and the ways that common chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, can complicate COVID.
HOW DO CHRONIC ILLNESSES IMPACT COVID?
“Chronic illness” is a broad term used to describe a long list of conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a chronic disease is “a condition that lasts 1 year or more and requires ongoing medical attention or limits activities of daily living or both.” Chronic illnesses include conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
While there is no proof that diabetes increases a person’s risk of contracting COVID, studies have found that diabetic patients are at a higher risk for serious complications from COVID. This risk increases for people with more than one chronic condition, such as a combination of diabetes and heart disease.
Diabetic individuals often experience low levels of inflammation as a part of their condition. If they contract coronavirus, this pre-existing inflammatory response is worsened, leading to complications such as insulin resistance. According to recent studies, “By triggering airway hyper-reactivity, insulin resistance increases the risk of respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary collapse in patients with diabetes and COVID-19 infection.”
After the initial infection, people with diabetes face additional COVID-19 complications. For example, patients with diabetes are more likely to experience long-COVID symptoms such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain, and respiratory issues.
DIABETES IN AMERICAN SAMOA
The diabetes rate in American Samoa is high, putting the population at high risk for severe COVID complications. According to Yale University, 1 in 3 adults in American Samoa are diabetic, and as a result, American Samoa has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world.
Ranking at #12 in the world, the prevalence of diabetes here in American Samoa is a serious public health issue. The medical teams at the LBJ Diabetes Program and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Medical Mission are using this month to bring more awareness to our community about the dangers of diabetes, with local leaders becoming involved.
“It deeply saddens me to see even young children, as young as 14, facing the consequences of this illness in our local dialysis center,” said Acting Governor Talauega E. V. Ale at a recent event. “We must acknowledge our role in exacerbating this issue through excessive consumption and unhealthy lifestyles.”
If you are experiencing symptoms of diabetes, then getting tested is recommended. Doctors at LBJ Hospital or local ASDOH clinics will listen to your concerns and order blood and urine tests to check blood sugar levels.
Individuals who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Getting tested can help you to make important lifestyle changes and work with medical professionals to create your treatment plan.
Once diagnosed, stay in contact with your doctor and follow your treatment plan as closely as possible. This may involve changing your diet, exercising to increase strength and lower BMI, and taking medications consistently. Each of these steps can help you to manage your diabetes and the stress it can put on you physically and mentally.
BUILDING A HEALTHY COMMUNITY
There are many ways we can work to create a healthier community here in American Samoa–in fact, we already have! The COVID vaccination rate in American Samoa is nearly 8% higher than the average global vaccination rate. The community worked to prevent widespread damage during the pandemic, and now, we have the chance to make more positive changes.
For some, building a healthy community involves spreading awareness about prevalent health issues such as diabetes. For others, building a healthy community involves improving mental health, wellbeing, and resilience. Through community events, workshops, medical treatments, and education, we have the power to help our community improve physical and mental well-being.
Interested in learning more? You can learn more about COVID-19’s impact on our community at the Alliance’s website!
Written by staff or Alliance Partners