While the risk of dying from coronavirus increases significantly with age, scientists are urging caution to younger people with type 2 diabetes.
Researchers have found that a 40-year-old with the condition has the same likelihood of a fatal outcome after becoming infected with COVID-19 as a non-diabetic who is 60.
The study by Exeter University discovered that the increased coronavirus mortality from having type 2 diabetes rises the younger you are.
This means that while older people with the condition had a “COVID age” similar to their actual age, those who were middle aged with type 2 diabetes had a comparatively higher risk.
For example, a 40-year-old with type 2 diabetes had the same likelihood of mortality as a healthy 60-year-old, while a 50-year-old with the condition had the same risk as a 66-year-old non-diabetic.
For a 70-year-old with diabetes, it becomes the equivalent of someone aged 78 without the condition.
It does not mean that those with type 2 diabetes are more likely to be hospitalised or die from the virus, just that younger people with the condition are more vulnerable compared to older sufferers.
Dr Andrew McGovern, of Exeter University Medical School, told The Sunday Times: “It was quite a surprising result. You expect the risk to be the same across all ages but it’s so strikingly different in younger people.
"That matters most in the middle-aged because their baseline risk is already slightly elevated by being that age, and then you add on this big additional risk from diabetes. It really does make a difference.”
Obesity accounts for 85% of the risk of developing type 2 diabetes – meaning experts are warning that many sufferers may need to lose weight to protect themselves during the pandemic.
The condition affects four million people in the UK, with another million unaware they have it.
It has been previously found that obesity can increase risk of coronavirus mortality because excess fat can place pressure on the lungs.
According to the NHS, you can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes by making healthy changes to your lifestyle.
These include losing weight, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol and doing enough exercise.
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