Can Metformin Protect Seniors from Long COVID?

Can Metformin Protect Seniors from Long COVID?

Scientists are working on new drug formulas all the time, coming up with thousands of new possibilities to help us live longer, healthier lives. But sometimes they find that a drug once meant for one purpose serves well for another. Sometimes those drugs are prescribed “off label” – meaning that they are prescribed for a purpose they weren’t originally intended to fulfill.

It happens quite a bit. In fact, about 20% of medications are prescribed for off-label use.1

Metformin might be the latest in that long string of medications that prove to be useful for conditions other than the one they were first intended to treat. Scientists have discovered that metformin might even hold the key to fighting Long COVID.

The History of Metformin

The European journal Diabetologia offers an in-depth look at the history of this wonder drug.2

Metformin actually has roots in traditional herbal medicine. In 1918, Galega officinalis – known as Goat’s Rue – was found to lower blood glucose thanks to high levels of guanidine. Scientists ran with the discovery and created several different types of medications using Goat’s Rue as a derivative source. However, those first attempts proved to be toxic for some, so its use was discontinued.

In the 1940s, metformin was the subject of clinical tests in the search for antimalarial drugs. Again, scientists discovered that it lowered blood glucose levels. Metformin came onto the market but was seen as inferior to other drugs that lowered glucose faster. The problem with those medications was that they eventually led to serious health issued and were discontinued in the 1970s.

Metformin caught on in Europe, however. Studies soon began to show that the drug was excellent at fighting insulin resistance and high blood sugar without leading to weight gain or hypoglycemia. In 1995, metformin was commercialized in the United States. Over time, studies showed even more benefits of the drug, including long-term cardiovascular effects.

Today, metformin is the most widely prescribed drug worldwide for lowering blood glucose levels.

Metformin and Long COVID

Clinical trials that target COVID, a variety of variants, and long COVID are the norm these days. A recent study looked at three drugs: ivermectin, fluvoxamine, and metformin.3

Ivermectin has been in the news for years now. It was first touted as a treatment for COVID that was so popular that people used versions of the drug meant for livestock. Today the effectiveness of Ivermectin has been proven useless as a drug to fight COVID.The scientists hoped that it might, however, prove to have some benefits in lessening the effects of long COVID.

Fluvoxamine is an anti-depressant. It has shown enough ability to treat COVID that it received emergency use authorization for patients dealing with COVID at home.5

The drugs were tested on over 1,000 obese adults who were predisposed to COVID and long COVID. Some of the individuals were given combinations of ivermectin and fluvoxamine, some were given metformin, and others were given a placebo. At the end of the study, those who took metformin showed a 42% decrease in symptoms compared to those who took the other drugs or a placebo.

Though further research is needed, this is a promising benefit of a drug that is already proven safe for many medical conditions. Scientists are now looking to replicate the results as well as figure out whether metformin is most effective when started during an emergency room visit or hospitalization for COVID.6

What Seniors Should Know About Long COVID

Today, the CDC reports that one in every five Americans who had COVID developed long COVID. The ongoing health problems that come with long COVID can be very wide-ranging and can last for years. And though long COVID is more common among those who had a severe infection or those who are not vaccinated, it can happen to anyone who contracts the virus.

Long COVID is a very serious issue. So serious that in July 2021, long COVID was formally recognized as a condition that could become a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.7

You’ll need to wait at least four weeks after an initial COVID infection has cleared before your condition could be diagnosed as long COVID. There is no test for it; your doctor determines if it’s long COVID through looking at your health history, your past COVID diagnosis, symptoms and a health examination.8

How do elderly adults know if what you’re feeling is long COVID or just a few lingering problems left over from the initial infection that will clear up soon? There are some ways to tell:

·        You’re tired all the time, so much so that it interferes with your daily life.

·        You are running a fever for no apparent reason.

·        Any symptoms you feel get worse after physical or mental exertion.

·        You have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, and a persistent cough.

·        You suffer chest pain or heart palpitations.

·        You have diarrhea or stomach pain.

·        Your muscles and joints hurt.

·        You develop a rash somewhere on your body.

·        You suffer a variety of neurological symptoms, including headache, a feeling of pins-and-needles, problems with sleep, dizziness, and “brain fog.”

·        You have trouble with increased depression or anxiety.

These symptoms mimic what someone might feel with chronic fatigue syndrome, and that might cause some confusion in coming to a diagnosis of long COVID.9

Those who suffer from COVID or long COVID have to deal with challenging symptoms. When you don’t feel well, everything in life becomes more difficult. That’s especially true if you are dealing with fatigue, any sort of pain or discomfort, or the neurological conditions that can often come with COVID, such as the “brain fog” that can prevent you from thinking clearly.

All of these problems are a fantastic reason for using medical alert technology to keep you safer in your day-to-day life. The peace of mind you get from a personal emergency button alarm can go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable and confident. Knowing that you can press the button at any time, day or night, and reach someone who can help you may make your life just a little easier.

How Seniors Can Protect Against Long COVID

You can only develop long COVID if you first develop COVID – so avoiding the virus is the best way to protect yourself. That means following the protocols set forth by the CDC and the World Health Organization, as well as taking your own precautions given your unique medical situation.10 For instance, social distancing and washing your hands thoroughly might be enough for some, but for those with a compromised immune system, wearing a fitted mask and taking further social distancing precautions might be the best plan.

There are other ways to lower your risk of developing COVID, including staying up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters. This is especially important for the elderly, as elderly adults account for 16% of the overall population but an astounding 75% of all deaths from COVID to date. But when the vaccines rolled out for those aged 65 and older, the share of total COVID deaths for seniors dropped from a high of 84% to a low of 58%.11

But things have changed a bit since those numbers in 2021. In November of 2022, the CDC reported that the number of seniors dying from COVID had jumped to a rate even higher than the early days of the pandemic. Seniors made up 92% of all deaths from COVID in late 2022; that corresponds with the dropping rates of vaccination and boosters among the elderly.12 In other words: get that vaccine and booster to prevent the worst outcomes.

It’s also important to note that the vaccine and booster have a strong effect on long COVID. If you are vaccinated but get infected anyway, not only are your odds of hospitalization much less, you will also be less likely to report any symptoms of long COVID. For those who are vaccinated and do get COVID, the infection usually runs its course with no lingering problems.13

If you are suffering from COVID or long COVID, don’t wait to protect yourself as best you can. That can include using an in-home or on-the-go medical alert wireless system with fall detection. These senior life-saving alert systems allow you to reach out for help with a single button push; and if you opt for fall detection, you don’t even have to push the button at all. Tiny sensors in the device can actually detect when a fall occurs. The device then alerts the monitoring center on your behalf. It’s one less thing to worry about at a time when you have more than enough concerns.

Talking to Your Doctor about Long COVID

Though long COVID can mimic many other conditions, doctors are much more attuned to the fact that those with COVID can have symptoms that last for years after the initial infection. Your doctor might want to run tests to rule out other problems, but then can help you manage the symptoms through medication and lifestyle changes.

When you meet with your doctor, provide as much information as you can. Keeping a daily journal is a great idea. Write down what you are feeling, when the symptoms worsen or get better, medications or remedies you have already tried, and anything else that seems pertinent to your unique situation. If the doctor can see an overarching trend, they will be better equipped to help you.

Remember that healthcare professionals are still learning about long COVID and the facts about it are changing as scientists discover more details about the infection. So be patient – it might take some time for a doctor to choose the appropriate tests to rule out other things. It may also be a good idea to look into support groups, either in person or online, to help you navigate long COVID and feel supported and understood.

When dealing with COVID, long COVID, or any other viral infection that can affect the quality of your day-to-day life, it’s important to do what you can to stay healthy. Follow all your doctor’s recommendations, get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and exercise if that is appropriate for you (your doctor will give you instruction on what you should or shouldn’t do). Take your medications on time. Avoid serious injury and get peace of mind with a senior panic button alert system. Enlist the help of family, friends, and caregivers to ensure that your bout with illness is as easy to handle as possible.