As someone with type 2 diabetes, you may already know the bad news: type 2 diabetes, especially if it’s not well managed, increases your chance for severe complications if you get COVID-19.
Now, the really, really (really!) good news we’ve waited for, we have a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. Did you hear that? A time when you can hug loved ones and avoid mentally measuring six feet from strangers is in sight! We’re so close to this future now that we have a proven way to help prevent this unpredictable and devastating virus that has taken so many lives and upturned millions of others.
What do I need to do?
You’ve already done so much. You’ve been diligent about managing your diabetes. You’ve been following the COVID-19 prevention playbook: Wear a mask! Wash your hands! Avoid crowds! Now it’s time to add one more, get the vaccine when it’s available to you. Everyone will still need to stick with the COVID-19 prevention playbook and keep conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure well managed to beat the virus, but you can think of getting the vaccine as your not-so-secret weapon.
“Every day we are putting in the work to try to eat right, to try to move, to try to take care of ourselves. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is part of that. I’ve seen friends deal with COVID and family with COVID. If I have a choice to prevent it, I will try. Because at the end of the day, I want to know I did everything that I could to be healthy. There are so many people that depend on me to be well.”
– Lupe, a person living with diabetes
Does it work?
The medical experts at the American Heart Association® (AHA) and the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) agree with scientists around the world that the COVID-19 vaccine is the most powerful tool we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones from its potential severe complications. This is the number one thing that will get us back to the life we miss.
“I want to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available. I know a lot of people out there are skittish about vaccinations. But in very big clinical trials these vaccines have shown efficacy rates of 95% or even higher. That’s an A+ in my book.”
– Joey, a heart disease survivor living with diabetes
Is it safe?
Yes, the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. Each available vaccine has gone through rigorous testing and been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s safe for people of color, people with diabetes, people with a history of heart disease or stroke, and other underlying health issues such as chronic kidney disease, all of whom were part of the trials. Of course, if you have questions that pertain to a unique situation, contact your doctor’s office now to ask if you should and when you’re able to get it.
“I can tell you I’ve registered for the vaccine and I’m not hesitant at all about taking it because I understand the risks associated with my diabetes and COVID.”
– Annette, a person living with diabetes
With all that’s changed over the last year, one thing has remained the same—at both the AHA and the ADA, your health is our number one priority and that one thing drives everything we do.
Do you ever get lost when you’re talking to your doctor because you don’t know the words being used?
Sometimes your doctor or other members of your health care team may use words you aren’t familiar with or that you’ve heard but don’t quite understand. If you feel confused about something your doctor is telling you, ask for it to be explained. Even with answers, you may still feel confused or uncertain about what you need to do following your visit.
We want to help you get the most out of your visit, so we’ve pulled together some commonly used terms your doctor might use when explaining how to better manage your diabetes and risk for heart disease and stroke:
A1C—An A1C blood test can be used to diagnose diabetes or identify prediabetes. It is also used to check how your diabetes treatment is working over time. This relatively simple blood test tells you your average blood sugar (also called blood glucose) level over the past two to three months. A higher level can tell you if you have diabetes or prediabetes and, if you have diabetes, how your treatment is working. If your A1C is higher than your targets, it raises your risk of developing complications. The goal for most adults with diabetes is an A1C less than 7%. Usually your doctor will order this test twice a year or more often, if needed.
Albumin—Albumin is a protein made by your liver that helps keep fluid in your bloodstream, so it doesn’t leak into other tissues. It also carries various substances throughout your body, including hormones, vitamins, and enzymes. Low albumin levels may lead to fluid retention, and can indicate a problem with your liver or kidneys.
Antihyperglycemic agents—Antihyperglycemic agents lower your blood sugar levels. They can be taken as pills or injected and are used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. For many people metformin is the first medication prescribed. Some antihyperglycemic agents, GLP-1s and SGLT-2s, have benefits for your heart and kidneys as well.
Blood glucose—Blood glucose, or more commonly called blood sugar, is found in the blood and is the body’s main source of energy. If you have diabetes, your body has trouble processing blood sugar. There are a variety of ways to check your blood sugar levels, which tell you if you have diabetes or how your treatment is working if you have diabetes.
Body mass index—Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of your body weight relative to your height. BMI, along with other measurements such as waist-to-hip ratio, can be used to help decide whether a person is underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese.
Glomerular filtration rate (GFR)—A glomerular filtration rate is a test used to check how well your kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes through the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood. A blood sample is sent to a lab where the creatinine level in the blood sample is tested. Creatinine is a chemical waste product of creatine—a chemical the body makes to supply energy, mainly to the muscles.
Hyperlipidemia—Hyperlipidemia is when the fat (triglyceride) and cholesterol (total cholesterol and/or LDL cholesterol) levels in your blood are too high.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)—Hypertension occurs when blood flows through the blood vessels with a force greater than normal. The extra pressure can strain your heart, damage blood vessels, and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney problems, and death. The goal for most adults is less than 120/80. Your doctor will give you a target that’s right for you.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)—Hypoglycemia when your blood sugar is lower than normal (less than 70 mg/dL). Signs include if you’re hungry, nervous, shaky, sweating, dizzy, light-headed, sleepy, or confused. If left untreated, it may lead to more serious complications, like losing consciousness. Hypoglycemia is treated by eating a food that’s a source of carbohydrate that will be processed by your body quickly, such as glucose tablets or juice. Severe hypoglycemia, where a person can’t speak or swallow, is treated with glucagon—either injected or inhaled—if the person is unconscious or unable to swallow.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)—Hyperglycemia is when your blood sugar levels are above normal.
Insulin—Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps your body use glucose for energy. If your body cannot make enough insulin and other medications aren’t helping you reach your blood glucose targets, insulin may be prescribed. Insulin is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump.
Titration—The amount of insulin a person with diabetes needs to take based on a variety of factors such as mealtime carbohydrate load, blood sugar levels, and exercise. For people starting insulin treatment, the initial dose is often relatively small and is increased over the course of the ensuing few days and weeks.
Urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR)—Your urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR) shows whether you have albumin in your urine. Albumin is a type of protein that’s normally found in the blood, not in your urine. People with a high amount of albumin in their urine are at an increased risk of having chronic kidney disease which could progress to kidney failure. The UACR screening is a simple urine test that’s part of a routine exam.
Remember, it’s OK to ask your doctor to explain something in a different way. Have a question? Just ask. Your health care team is there for you.