Coronavirus: neglecting health during pandemic is 'recipe for disaster', UAE doctors warn

Medics highlighted the dangers of slipping into sedentary lifestyles

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. News. Covid-19/Coronavirus. A man walks passed a safety sign on the beach with his shopping. Sunday, June 21st, 2020. Jumeriah, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Safety measures in place to combat the spread of Covid-19 could be a "recipe for disaster" for those falling into sedentary lifestyles and failing to take care of their health, UAE doctors have warned.

The outbreak prompted governments across the globe to introduce stay-home measures, including allowing many employees to work from home.

While restrictions are gradually easing in the UAE, medics said it is vital that residents do not stick to bad habits they may have formed during prolonged periods spent indoors.

Dr Sherief Elsayed, consultant spinal surgeon at Emirates Hospital in Dubai, said it’s imperative for people to focus on their physical and mental well-being.

“One of the biggest risks is inactivity,” he said.

Weight gain, low mood and poor diabetes control are just some of the ill-effects reported by health officials as a result of people spending more time at home during the pandemic.

Being indoors more regularly also means people are less exposed to sunlight, bringing down their Vitamin D levels.

Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency can include feeling weak or fatigued and it has also been suggested that it affects one’s mental health.

Dr Elsayed said although some people are very good at establishing and maintaining a routine during challenging times, “others need a nudge.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t been able to establish a routine as yet, but do start to make steps towards establishing one – with the aim of improving both your physical and mental health,” he said.

Doctors globally worry that patients who are in need of urgent assessment and care refrain from hospital visits because of their fears of contracting the virus - a so-called “Covid-Phobia.”

Reports suggest the number of patients attending hospital for heart-related issues decreased by 38 per cent in the US and 40 per cent in Spain since March.

Patients with chest pain, suggestive of heart disease, and even people with symptoms suggesting a stroke are avoiding hospitals.

“Naturally this leads to worse outcomes for such patients,” Dr Elsayed said.

Health officials have found that some patients are not having regular check-ups, be it for important eye conditions like glaucoma or visiting a doctor for diabetes.

People with type one and type two diabetes could see their diabetic control worsen during this time of inactivity.

According to consultant endocrinologist at Al Zahra Hospital, Sharjah Dr Brian Mtemererwa, a sedentary lifestyle is a “recipe for disaster for patients that have any form of metabolic disease such as diabetes.”

In 2019 it was reported by the International Diabetic Federation (IDF) that there are more than 55 million adults from the age of 20 to 79 that are diabetic in the Middle East and North Africa  region and 15.4 per cent of adults in the UAE are diabetic.

Some patients with poorly controlled diabetes are at higher risks of contracting bacterial or fungal infections and may suffer from physiological reserves of vital organs like the heart and kidneys, said Dr Mtemererwa.

“When someone comes in with multiple organs that are already compromised and you give them a very serious systemic inflammatory response, similar to what happens in Covid-19, those patients tend to do badly,” he said.

Diabetic patients do not have a higher chance of contracting the virus but run the risk of worse outcomes when contracting it, he added.

According to the IDF, traditional methods of controlling diabetes include lifestyle modifications such as exercising, drinking water, implementing portion control and regulating stress levels.

Healthy nutrition is an essential component of diabetes management. It is vital for people with diabetes to eat a varied and balanced diet to keep their blood glucose levels stable and enhance their immune system.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention urges citizens and residents to boost their immunity by maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, avoiding close contact with anyone showing signs of respiratory illness and washing hands regularly.