How You Could Be at Higher Risk for COVID-19

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Wondering whether you could be at heightened risk for COVID-19? Check if or how many of these characteristics apply to you.

You are age 65 or older: COVID-10 attacks your lungs, and your lungs become less elastic and disease-resistant as you get older. Also, your immune system gets weaker with age, making it harder for you to fight off infections, including COVID-19. In addition, older people tend to have more long-term health problems in general, which can make COVID-19 more severe and dangerous.

You live in a nursing home or long-term care facility: If this describes you, you’re likely older and have underlying health problems, putting you at increased risk for COVID-19. Plus, the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads very easily among people living close to one another.

You have chronic lung disease, such as COPD, moderate to severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis or interstitial lung disease: These conditions can create scarring, inflammation and damage in the lungs, helping set the stage for infection with COVID-19.

You have a serious heart condition, such as cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension, congenital heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure or coronary artery disease: COVID-19 puts a strain on the lungs, forcing your heart to work harder. When you already have underlying heart disease, this increases your risk. Also, viral illnesses can cause a piece of plaque in your artery to break off and enter the bloodstreams, causing a heart attack.

You are currently receiving treatment for cancer, a cancer survivor, or a smoker; have poorly controlled HIV or AIDS; have had a bone marrow or organ transplant or have an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus; are taking immune-weakening drugs such as prednisone or injectable biologics and have been for a long time: These conditions and medications decrease your body’s ability to fight off COVID-19 infection.

You have sickle cell disease: You may have underlying heart and lung conditions that could make COVID-19 infection more severe for you.

You have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher: Severe obesity reduces the effectiveness fo your immune system in fighting infections like COVID-19.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on your height and weight. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

You have diabetes: Type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase your blood sugar, which allows viral illnesses like COvID-19 to flourish. Also, diabetes increases inflammation and weakens your immune system, making it harder for you to fight off disease in general.

You have chronic kidney disease and are undergoing dialysis: You may have a weakened immune system, putting you at increased risk for COVID-19.

You have a chronic liver disease like cirrhosis: You may have a weakened immune system, increasing your risk.

How To Protect Yourself

We all know about the importance of wearing masks, frequent handwashing, disinfecting surfaces and physical distancing. What else can you do to protect yourself from COVID-19? Read on.

  • Keep any health problems you have under control. Always take your medications as directed.
  • Keep a list of your health issues, medications, doctors’ names and emergency contacts in your purse or wallet. If you get COVID-19, you will need to give this information to your health care team.
  • If you have asthma, avoid your specific asthma triggers as much as you can. One simple way to do this is to never smoke or vape. These can trigger an asthma attack and weaken your immune system, increasing your risk of COVID-19.
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, especially for flu and pneumonia. These vaccines wont’ prevent COVID-19, but they may help prevent you from becoming ill with flu or pneumonia, improving your odds of a good outcome should you also contract COVID-19.
  • Don’t’ delay getting the health care you need. At this time, the risk of delayed care can be greater than the virus itself. Work with your health care provider on virtual visits or other arrangement if you can’t attend.

Related Links

At University Hospitals, we believe having a primary care physician is essential to your health and well-being. Our primary care providers, or primary care doctors and nurses, provide comprehensive, compassionate and continuous primary care for patients of all ages, from newborns to seniors. Learn more about primary care at University Hospitals or find a primary care physician near you.

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