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Zamir Ahadzada, PT, DPT
Diabetes and COVID-19: The Benefits of Physical Therapy
Bodies in Motion Physical Therapy IV, LLC
. http://bodiesinmotionpt.com

Diabetes and COVID-19: The Benefits of Physical Therapy

By now, due to extensive media coverage, everyone has heard of COVID-19 or the coronavirus. There are multiple symptoms associated with it that include: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many people who have it will recover, but some people with comorbidities such as diabetes, lung disease, and heart disease are considered higher risk for severe illness.

Although COVID-19 is an emergent pandemic, “the emergence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) as a global pandemic is one of the major challenges to human health in the 21st century” according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Diabetes can increase risks for complications such as peripheral neuropathy, cardiovascular accident, such as strokes and heart attacks, retinopathy, and renal disease.  Physical therapy can help patients with diabetes by providing health care guidance to better quality of life through safe daily exercises, and reducing risk for falls for those with complications such as retinopathy and diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

According to the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, “Benefits of physical activity include improved glucose control, insulin sensitivity, maximum rate of oxygen consumption, and blood pressure” which, in turn, lowers the risk for cardiovascular accidents, such as stroke.

Although the ADA recommends 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, many people do not know where to start or how intense is “moderate to vigorous intensity”. Through blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level monitoring, physical therapy can provide a safe guided prescription on appropriate intensity for exercise to meet the ADA criteria of 150 minutes a week.

Physical therapy can also reduce the risk for falls for patients with complications of diabetes that include retinopathy and peripheral neuropathy (PN).

Since balance is primarily made up of somatosensory system, vestibular system, and visual system, retinopathy and peripheral neuropathy will affect two of the three systems that effects balance. This means people who have difficult seeing due to retinopathy or people who have decrease sensation in their feet due to PN are at increased risk for falls. Physical therapy can target these areas and improve ways through proprioceptive training, strength training, and vestibular training to reduce risk for falls with these patients.

Due to the influences physical therapy has in the overall well being, patients with diabetes can benefit from it by reducing risk for strokes, heart attacks, and reducing risk for falls through education and prescription for exercise.

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