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Health Screening, A stethoscope on a patients blood results after a a consultation

Are some people more likely to get COVID-19? Why do certain people have more severe complications?

Researchers in a study of 5,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients have confirmed what physicians nationwide have anecdotally documented: patients with obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are at a greater risk for developing complications after contracting the novel coronavirus. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and sought to answer the question, What are the characteristics, clinical presentation, and outcomes of patients hospitalized with coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States?

The researchers admitted that it was beyond the scope of their study to determine why certain conditions are more common among COVID-19 patients who experience severe complications. Their study was designed to identify and document the coexistence of those conditions in COVID-19 patients.

The study consisted of patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to 12 hospitals in New York City, Long Island, and Westchester County, New York. The study included all hospitalized patients admitted between March 1, 2020, and April 4, 2020. The median age of participants was 63 years. The researchers discovered that among all admitted patients the most common coexisting conditions were high blood pressure/hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.

At the end of the study, 2,634 patients were discharged or died. The severe complications experienced by discharged patients during their hospitalization were as follows:

  • 373 patients (14.2 percent) were treated in the intensive care unit
  • 320 (12.2 percent) received invasive mechanical ventilation.
  • 81 (3.2 percent) were treated with kidney replacement therapy
  • 553 (21 percent) died

Severe complications or death occurred in half of the patients discharged at the end of the study. Of those who died, hypertensive patients were less likely to require care in the ICU or to be placed on a ventilator than those without high blood pressure. However, patients with diabetes were more likely to require care in the ICU or to have been placed on a ventilator than nondiabetics. Patients who had diabetes were more likely to develop kidney problems while in the hospital compared to nondiabetics.

What should those who have these conditions do? According to the American Diabetes Association, you should be prepared, take precautions, and if you become sick, take action.

  • Be prepared: Before you become sick, make a plan. This plan should include gathering supplies such as medications, phone numbers of doctors, and household items to last if you must be home for an extended time.
  • Take precautions: Avoid contact with people who are sick, practice social distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.
  • Take action: If you feel sick, contact your doctor immediately.
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