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One year on: What underlying health conditions make Covid-19 most dangerous?

It’s one year since the UK was plunged into its first Covid-19 lockdown. At the time, there was criticism that we’d moved too slowly, albeit with very little known about the virus and disease at that time. One year one, what do we know about the underlying health conditions that make Covid-19 most dangerous?

One year on: What underlying health conditions make Covid-19 most dangerous?
Maria Montgomery
· 7 min read

Since the outbreak of Covid-19, people have tried to figure out the mortality rate and who is most at risk of contracting severe Covid-19. As it turns out, these are complex questions that aren’t as easy to answer as they may seem at first.

Age is not a health condition, but it's a factor

Age is not a disease but a privilege. Unfortunately, with age, our immune systems become weaker, though. In the US, 80% of COVID related deaths have been adults age 65 and older. Those that are the highest risk group are 85 and older. This data holds up in the UK, too—there are relatively few deaths among those under fifty. For every decade you add to your life, the chance of COVID being fatal doubles to triples.

Naturally, underlying health conditions in combination with higher age also increase the risk, as do underlying conditions on their own.

What ethnicities are more likely to suffer serious Covid-19?

Worldwide studies show that BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) groups are more likely to contract the virus.

It's essential when looking at this data to consider that various ethnic groups within the UK are more likely to contract the virus, not because of their ethnicity, but because of their work, housing, and social habits, among other things. Social distancing and sanitation is an essential factor in avoiding the virus. Likewise, death rates drop when there's access to or a willingness to use local healthcare. Unregistered immigrants and those without health insurance are often less likely to seek medical care.

Are people with underlying health conditions more at risk of getting Covid-19?

No, is the short answer to that. At least there haven't been any studies to prove that those with underlying health conditions are more likely to get Covid-19. Anyone can contract the virus.

However, people with certain underlying health conditions are more at risk for getting seriously ill with Covid-19.

Is your blood type a risk factor for Covid-19?

The studies thus far are pretty contradictory. However, there seems to be some evidence to suggest that people with blood group A and AB are somewhat more susceptible to the virus than those with blood group B and O. People with blood group B and O also seem less likely to need mechanical breathing.

What underlying conditions can make Covid-19 more severe?

The CDC reported that the underlying conditions listed below are the most likely to cause Covid-19 to become more severe. Similar results have been found in studies worldwide:

  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30.

While the exact numbers are unclear, available data suggests that people with these underlying conditions are five to six times more likely to get hospitalised and end up in the ICU. They are about 12 times more likely to die from Covid-19. You can read a sum-up of the CDC's findings here.

Of course, anyone who has a compromised immune system or is already very ill is also likely to be more seriously affected by Covid-19.

The Mayo Clinic and the NHS further reports that people at higher risk include those who have been diagnosed with: 

  • Cancer
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Moderate to severe asthma
  • Sickle cell anaemia
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) 
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Thalassemia

What's the mortality rate for Covid-19?

This is not a question that can be answered directly. The mortality rate for Covid-19 dramatically varies in different regions. What's more, all the above factors play a role in the mortality rate as well. This site tries to make sense of the Covid-19 mortality rate. Rather than tracking stats, though, a more practical approach is to fight Covid-19 by improving your immune system and practising social distancing.

What should I do if I'm at risk for contracting severe Covid-19?

If you have an underlying health condition that makes you more at risk for getting severe symptoms from Covid-19, then, first of all, take your medication. It's more important than ever to stay on top of any health condition you may have.

Secondly, you will want to check with your doctor if you should get a vaccine for influenza and/or pneumonia. If you haven't yet had the Covid-19 vaccine, this might be recommended. While Covid-19 doesn't give you influenza or pneumonia, you might contract them while having Covid-19. This, in turn, can cause problems. Likewise, if you get pneumonia or flu, your immune system might get compromised, making you more likely to contract severe Covid-19.

Thirdly, do everything you can to stay healthy and help your immune system stay strong. Habits to strengthen your immune system include: 

  • Eating a healthy diet free from processed foods
  • Exercising five times a week for at least 20 minutes at a time (vary cardio with strength exercises)
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Sleeping on regular hours and ensure you get enough hours of sleep every night
  • Supplementing with a multivitamin a couple of times a week
  • Doing things that make you happy and allows you to be social (even at a distance)
  • Partaking in things that help you decrease stress

All the above has been shown to help support your health at large. If you have breathing problems of some form, consider breath exercises as well to improve lung capacity. 

Lastly, remember to do social distancing, particularly with people who may have been exposed to Covid-19. Instead of socialising indoors, stay outdoors. Ensure the people you're socialising with wear masks. 

Remember to sanitise your hands before touching your face if out and about and before entering your home, office, or car.

Is the Covid-19 vaccine foolproof?

No, none of the approved vaccines thus far offers 100% protection against Covid-19. However, they significantly reduce your risk of contracting the disease and, if you do, will help minimise the risk of it becoming life-threatening.

In closing

No one is immune to Covid-19, but there are definitively risk factors for those with underlying health conditions, as well as those who are older. The best way to stay as safe as possible is to improve your overall health while also practising social distancing. If you require medication for another condition, be sure to take it.

While social distancing can seem like a never-ending nightmare, most of the population will be vaccinated soon. While that might not eliminate the virus, it will significantly reduce your chances of contracting it. And, remember that you can be social and practice social distancing. Apart from staying in touch with friends and family over the phone and through video calls, you can meet anywhere outdoors. If you've been contemplating a veranda, now's the time to get one. And don't underestimate the comfort of heating lamps if socialising a lot outdoors!

Maria Montgomery
Maria Montgomery
Maria has lived in seven different countries around the globe. While trained as an actor, director and producer, mainly she’s been paid for putting her words to pieces of paper. She also has an entrepreneurial streak and is the owner of Magique and That Woman Is A Woman Productions. Her blog, Confessions of a Dizzy Blonde, offers her life learnings, sprinkled with a large dose of humour…and sex!