In the United States,
That means that millions of Americans have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.
“If you have underlying conditions, including obesity and other [chronic] diseases, you are at much higher risk of hospitalization, serious complications, and death [from COVID-19],” said Barry M. Popkin, PhD, a professor of nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
This makes it even more important for people at risk to take steps to protect themselves from SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists several
Many of these are very common among Americans:
According to the CDC, other conditions and factors might also increase a person’s risk, but there isn’t enough data yet to know for certain. These include:
There’s still a lot that scientists don’t know about COVID-19 and what causes it, including why some people get more severe illness.
While older age and underlying medical conditions increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19, some healthy people have also been severely affected by the coronavirus.
Data from the CDC shows that
While some people had other conditions that contributed to their death, this doesn’t mean that they didn’t die from COVID-19.
“The point the CDC was trying to make was that a certain percentage of them had nothing else but just COVID,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview with “Good Morning America.”
“That does not mean that someone who has hypertension or diabetes who dies of COVID didn’t die of COVID-19. They did,” he added.
In addition, many of the other factors listed in the CDC’s report are conditions that are caused by SARS-CoV-2 — such as pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, heart failure, and kidney failure.
If COVID-19 led to pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome, then it is COVID-19 that’s the primary cause of death.
The coronavirus isn’t just a respiratory virus that affects the lungs. It can also affect the stomach, intestines, heart, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and immune system.
Part of the damage is caused by an overreactive response of the immune system to the virus — what’s known as a “cytokine storm.”
In addition to obesity, diabetes is another COVID-19 risk factor that’s of particular concern for millions of Americans, especially for those with undiagnosed — and unmanaged — high blood sugar.
Dr. Roma Gianchandani, a professor of internal medicine in the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medicine division of metabolism, endocrinology, and diabetes, said people with diabetes have a higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19, although it’s not clear yet how much diabetes alone contributes to that.
“Diabetes patients have increased severity of COVID-19,” she said. “Some of this is due to other conditions like heart disease that coexist [with diabetes], in addition to diabetes complications.”
There’s also an interplay between diabetes and COVID-19 that can worsen patient outcomes.
“Diabetes patients have a baseline level of inflammation which is worsened by infections,” said Gianchandani, which can be even worse in patients with poorly managed blood sugar levels.
People with diabetes often have high blood pressure, or heart or kidney disease, all of which increase a person’s risk of severe COVID-19.
Gianchandani said COVID-19 also causes inflammation, which can raise blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. If the inflammation is severe enough, it can even increase blood sugar in people without diabetes.
She and her colleagues are working on better ways to monitor and manage high blood sugar levels in COVID-19 patients. They published their preliminary results recently in the journal Diabetes.
Their tool is designed for use with diabetes patients in the hospital, but Gianchandani said the concept applies to others as well.
“Patients with diabetes who are at home and well should absolutely monitor and follow their blood glucose levels closely, work with their physician offices, and maintain a good diabetes management regimen,” she said.
“It is also important for them to follow all the COVID-19 prevention measures to avoid getting the disease,” she added.
These are good tips for anyone with an underlying health condition. On its website,