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Health conditions that increase mortality risk for COVID-19

A large international research study highlights the chronic health conditions that put you at greater risk of death from COVID-19. 

From the beginning of the pandemic, it became apparent that individuals with underlying health conditions may have a greater risk of death from COVID-19, and research related to the potential risk factors for COVID-19 mortality continues to grow. According to researchers, previous studies have been insubstantial looking at a very limited number of countries, studies, or conditions. This prompted a team to take a more inclusive and global approach to investigating the connection between pre-existing health conditions and death from COVID-19. 

Published in PLOS ONE, researchers analysed data from over 65,000 patients from 25 different studies. They looked at 11 chronic conditions in patients from four continents – Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America – to estimate the impact of pre-existing comorbidities on the risk of COVID-19 mortality. The 11 comorbidities analysed included; cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and HIV/AIDS.

Results show that of the 11 chronic conditions analysed, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and cancer carry the highest risk of death from COVID-19. 

The study suggests that pre-existing cardiovascular disease may double a patient’s risk of dying from COVID-19. The risk of death was also seen to be 80% higher in patients with hypertension, 1.5 times higher in diabetics and cancer patients, and three times higher in patients with chronic kidney disease. 

Cerebrovascular disease, chronic liver disease, COPD, asthma, and HIV/AIDS were not found to be significantly associated with a greater risk of mortality from COVID-19.

The Penn State College of Medicine researchers discuss that their findings may help develop public health strategies to target these high-risk populations. With vaccine development ongoing, the results support the idea that people deemed at high risk from COVID-19 mortality should receive immunisation as a priority.

This research also highlights the importance of protecting at-risk populations with specific comorbidities and tailoring treatment to meet their needs. The CDC emphasises that people with underlying medical conditions should:

  • Continue their medication and treatment plan
  • Ensure a 30-day medication supply
  • Do not delay getting emergency care for an underlying medical condition
  • Contact a healthcare provider if there are any concerns.

Further research is needed to fully understand the risk of pre-existing health conditions, particularly regarding the effects of race and ethnicity, on COVID-19 morbidity. However, these findings can help inform pandemic prevention strategies and will likely be built on by future research.

Written by Helen Massy, BSc.

References:

Certain pre-existing conditions may double, triple mortality risk for COVID-19. EurekAlert!. (2020). Retrieved 14 October 2020, from https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-10/ps-cpc100820.php.

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Retrieved 14 October 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precautions%2Fgroups-at-higher-risk.html.

Ssentongo, P., Ssentongo, A., Heilbrunn, E., Ba, D., & Chinchilli, V. (2020). Association of cardiovascular disease and 10 other pre-existing comorbidities with COVID-19 mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLOS ONE, 15(8), e0238215. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0238215

Image by mattthewafflecat from Pixabay 

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