Press release

Patient Perspective: Living with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease Amid COVID-19

April 23, 2020 | Arlington, Virginia

The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association share inspiration from patients and need-to-know information from experts

As emerging science around COVID-19 highlights elevated danger for people with diabetes, heart disease and stroke1, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association urge people living with type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease to manage their conditions and look for unique opportunities to double-down on their health goals during the pandemic.

Brandon Lewis of Dallas lives with diabetes, and now is dealing with being at increased risk for serious complications if he contracts COVID-19.

“I’m an African-American man living with type 2 diabetes, battling high blood pressure and at the beginning of my weight loss journey. I know I’m at higher risk from COVID-19, and I think a lot of people in my shoes do, too,” said Lewis, who is 42.

Lewis is far from alone, with 34.2 million Americans living with diabetes and 120 million having one or more cardiovascular diseases. 

The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, two of the world’s leading health organizations in the areas of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, teamed up in 2018 to create Know Diabetes by Heart® to help Americans living with diabetes lower their risk for cardiovascular death, heart attacks, heart failure and stroke. 

Lewis, a Know Diabetes by Heart national ambassador, has turned to technology to help him track his weight loss and has good news–his new smart scale shows he’s down 8 pounds since the pandemic hit the US. 

“I still leave the house for my job, but no more work potlucks or other food gatherings has really helped me not even have to avoid the temptation. I try to look for the beauty in everything,” he said.

Lewis’s fellow Know Diabetes by Heart ambassadors offer tips and inspiration, based on their personal experiences, for others living with type 2 diabetes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Christina Herrera, 46, Dallas, type 2 diabetes and triple bypass surgery
    “I borrowed a stationary bike from a friend and moved my exercise routine inside so I could keep training for my first triathlon. Beyond that, I’m trying to make my home a place I want to be.”
  • Hyvelle Ferguson-Davis, 48, Fort Lauderdale, FL, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack
    “I’ve developed a protocol with my doctor for when I should go to the ER. If you get to know your body, with your doctor’s help, you can avoid it in certain times.”
  • Jacqueline Alikhaani, 59, Los Angeles, type 2 diabetes, congenital heart condition, TIA
    “I had an issue with my medication and was going to need to pay cash for a replacement. I was able to get a sample from my doctor to bridge the gap.”
  • Rob Taub, 64, New York City, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure
    “Being sheltered in place has forced me to eat at home and I’ve adopted a very low-salt diet. I check my blood pressure twice a day and in just a few weeks, my numbers have been better than I’ve ever seen them.”

What is the real risk to people living with diabetes?
Early reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from China and Italy show higher rates of hospitalizations, need for intensive care, and death for people with diabetes who contract COVID-19. 

Could medications to control diabetes make people with COVID-19 sicker?
There may be some circumstances under which a change in your diabetes medications may be indicated when your body is under a lot of stress from illness.

“Pandemic or not, any change in diabetes medication or dose needs to be a joint decision with your doctor and based on your individual situation and health history,” said Robert Eckel, MD, American Diabetes Association president of medicine and science and an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. 

Preparing for the possibility of getting sick
The two associations recommend people living with diabetes, managing cardiovascular disease, or both to gather medical, grocery, cleaning and other household supplies they will need in the event they can’t leave the house to get them. It’s also important to organize important information like phone numbers for doctors, pharmacy and insurance, create a list of medications and doses, and know how – and when – to contact your health care team. 

“Make sure that you already know how you can contact your physician or your doctor's office in the event of the need to see your doctor, whether it's because you're having a problem with COVID-19 or because you're having a problem with anything else, which is going to keep happening, because COVID-19 didn't result in disease distancing,” said Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, FAAFP, the American Heart Association’s chief medical officer for Prevention. 

Medicare has temporarily expanded its coverage of telehealth services to help patients access their care team without having to visit a doctor’s office or hospital. In the event of a medical emergency like experiencing signs of a heart attack or stroke, people should still seek immediate help by calling 9-1-1.

Bottom line for people living with type 2 diabetes
Managing underlying conditions and closely following advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local officials is key to avoiding and overcoming COVID-19. Patients can also count on the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association for science-backed information and guidance specific to people living with type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease. 

Additional Resources:
Available multimedia is on right column of the release in the AHA’s Newsroom.

1) M. Madjid, JAMA Cardiology, 03/27/20

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About Know Diabetes by Heart™
The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association launched the collaborative landmark initiative called Know Diabetes by Heart™ to comprehensively combat the national public health impact of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Through Know Diabetes by Heart™, the leading nonprofit associations, with founding sponsors the Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company Diabetes Alliance, and Novo Nordisk, and national sponsors Sanofi, AstraZeneca and Bayer, are focused on positively empowering people living with type 2 diabetes to better manage their risk for cardiovascular disease such as, heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, and supporting health care providers in educating and treating their patients living with type 2 diabetes to reduce their cardiovascular risk. Visit for resources.

About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

About the American Diabetes Association
Every day more than 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in America. More than 122 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and are striving to manage their lives while living with the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For nearly 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. We help people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy and education designed to improve their quality of life. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).

For Media Inquiries: 
American Heart Association – Jayme Sandberg,, 214-706-2169
American Diabetes Association – Sabrena Pringle,, 703-299-2014

For Public Inquiries:
1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and 

1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) (emails to: