This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Managing your diabetes during the coronavirus crisis could make a difference between life or death, health experts say.

Each year, thousands of people are diagnosed with diabetes. Experts say those people are already at risk for various infections, which could turn deadly if you add COVID-19 to the mix.

“If your blood sugars are elevated or if you’re having abnormal A1C, that increases the severities and you may have more complications from COVID-19,” said Nykkia Sellers, a certified diabetes care and education specialist.

Sellers says at this time, it’s unclear if people living with diabetes are more at risk for COVID-19.

But, it is clear that those same people may be at a higher risk due to their underlying conditions that come with the disease, such as heart and kidney disease, which may make it harder for your body to recover from certain illnesses.

According to the Shelby County Health Department, 26% of COVID-19 deaths were in people who were diabetic.

“If you have COVID-19 and you go into the hospital, you may have more of the severity of pneumonia that comes with that and respiratory failure,” Sellers said.

Sellers says managing your diabetes now may make a difference between life or death if you were to contract COVID-19.

She says this includes keeping a close on your blood sugar levels, which should remain anywhere from 80 to 130. She also encourages people to increase physical activity, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and stay stocked up on insulin and other medication. 

Sellers says Shelby County has an alarming rate of diabetic cases, with the mortality rate among African-Americans being more than 40%. 

She says if you are diabetic and experiencing complications such as high blood pressure or even shortness of breath, you need to go to the hospital immediately. 

Unfortunately, she says she’s seeing more patients refuse hospital care due to having fears of contracting COVID-19.

“There’s other things going on besides COVID-19. COVID is a pandemic that’s affecting all of us, but there’s still people that’s living with diabetes that have heart disease,” Sellers said. “Heart disease puts you at an increased risks for heart attacks and strokes.”

Sellers says people with diabetes are also more likely to experience depression, which could be heightened during this pandemic. She encourages those struggling with depression to contact their medical provider and try to maintain an active lifestyle.