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COVID-19 risk demonstrates importance of keeping healthy

blood sugar test photo

A nurse pierces the finger of a patient to test blood sugar for diabetes. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 94% of patients hospitalized because of the COVID-19 strand of coronavirus in the New York City area had a chronic health problem. The three most prevalent conditions were hypertension, obesity, and diabetes . (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Travis Edwards/Released)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

Though people of all ages are affected by coronavirus, many of those who develop severe complications after contracting it have preexisting medical conditions.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 94% of patients hospitalized because of the COVID-19 strand of coronavirus in the New York City area had a chronic health problem.  Of these patients, 88% had two or more.  The three most prevalent conditions were hypertension (56.6%), obesity (41.7%), and diabetes (33.8%).

The study followed 5,700 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 between March 1 and April 4, spanning 12 New York City-area hospitals. Among the patients who died, the study said, those with diabetes were more likely to have been placed on a ventilator or to have received care in the Intensive Care Unit compared with those who did not have the condition. 

The term comorbidity means more than one disease or health condition is present in the same person at the same time. Conditions described as comorbidities are often chronic or long-term conditions.  Many comorbidities, such as chronic lung disease, diabetes, and cardiac disease, are known risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms and mortality.

Patients with comorbidities may struggle to recover if they develop a severe illness, because they may have less physiologic reserve. Physiologic reserve is the capability of an organ in the body to carry out its activity under stress. Patients with comorbidities expend a greater proportion of their reserve simply to maintain organ stability, and any illness can contribute to catastrophic deterioration with devastating outcomes such as heart or liver failure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic health condition, and 4 in 10 adults have two or more.  The adult obesity rate in the U.S. is 42.4%. The obesity rate for Air Force service members is 14.6%. The prevalence of diabetes (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in the U.S. adult population is 13%, with an estimated 34% having prediabetes. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have hypertension.

Many chronic health diseases are caused by key risk behaviors. By making healthy choices, you can lower your risk for developing a chronic disease, and improve your chances for quicker recovery times from illness. The CDC lists the following lifestyle behaviors to lower your risk for chronic conditions:

  • Quit smoking- All Federal Employee Health Benefit plans offer 100% coverage of tobacco cessation treatment options.  Additional information is available at www.opm.gov.
  • Eat healthy- A balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products is important to help prevent chronic diseases.
  • Get regular physical activity- The CDC physical activity guidelines recommend adults should engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 150 minutes a week.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol- Limit alcoholic beverage consumption to 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks a day for men.
  • Get enough sleep- Adults should get at least 7 hours of sleep daily.
  • Get medical screenings regularly that are appropriate for your age and gender.
  • Know your family history- If you have a family history of chronic disease, share the information with your doctor who can help you take steps to prevent these conditions or catch them early.
  • Make healthy choices part of your daily life to help prevent developing chronic health conditions such as hypertension or diabetes.

For more information on weight management, sleep health, and physical activity programs, visit http://www.usafwellness.com or contact Civilian Health Promotion Services at CHPSsupport@us.af.mil. Comprehensive information on how to prevent chronic diseases can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/