Doctors have long known that certain preexisting health conditions can make a patient’s experience with the novel coronavirus much more severe and potentially deadly. But growing research is painting a broader picture of other indicators that could signal health issues for anyone who becomes infected. Now, a new study out of Wuhan, China, shows that having high blood sugar could put you at a much higher risk of dying from COVID-19. The study, which was published in the journal Diabetologia, examined the death rates of 605 coronavirus patients at two hospitals in Wuhan. Shockingly, the researchers found that patients who were hyperglycemic were more than twice as likely to die from COVID compared with other patients—even if they weren’t previously diagnosed as diabetic.
The authors explained that the correlation between increased death rates and high blood sugar is due to how hyperglycemia affects the body, including effects on blood clotting, the weakening of the linings of blood vessels, and the so-called “cytokine storm” that leads the immune system to overreact to the virus. The findings led researchers to urge doctors to test the blood sugar levels of all coronavirus patients, even those who are not known diabetics.
The link between blood sugar levels and coronavirus has been a much-discussed topic amid the pandemic. Multiple studies have indicated that diabetics are more likely to die from the virus. A study from April published in the Journal of Infection found that people with diabetes were four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without. Similarly, a May study published in the journal Diabetologia found that 10 percent of people with diabetes who were hospitalized for COVID-19 died within seven days of being admitted. Those findings also showed that nearly a third of those diabetes patients needed to be put on a ventilator.
On top of that, in a letter published in The New England Journal of Medicine in June, diabetes experts said that coronavirus can lead to the onset of diabetes in previously healthy people.
In an assessment of the new Wuhan study, Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said the research confirms the connection between blood sugar levels and COVID mortality. “We know that those with higher blood sugar levels will have more severe disease,” Sattar said in a statement. “Because more severe disease will stress metabolic pathways more, leading sugar levels to rise in the sickest patients.” And for more on how you can protect yourself from coronavirus, check out The One Thing You Should Do to Lower Your COVID Risk Right Now, Study Says.