Are You At Higher Risk For COVID-19 Complications?

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: May 13, 2020

There is still so much we don’t know about the coronavirus, and information continues to evolve every day. While we don’t completely understand the “how” and the “why” behind many aspects of who experiences a higher rate of complications with COVID-19, it is clear there are certain groups of people who are more prone to severe complications. So, who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 complications? We’ve identified the characteristics, conditions, and situations that experts believe make patients more susceptible.
  1. Individuals age 65 and older.
    While COVID-19 can infect people of any age, those who are above 65 are more at risk of developing symptoms that result in complications. The reality is, our immune systems weaken as we get older. Also, it is more common for older individuals to have underlying health conditions contributing to the increased risk of developing severe complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight out of ten deaths from COVID-19 are people 65 and older. However, it is important to note the mortality rate for younger seniors and older seniors might vary considerably. The Journal of American Medical Association found that the fatality rate in the population studied for the 60-69 age group was 3.5%. In contrast, the fatality rate for those aged 80 and older was just over 20%.

    Seniors who reside in nursing homes and long term care facilities are a particularly vulnerable subset of this population because they typically have at least one underlying condition. Plus, the virus can spread quickly from resident to resident due to the proximity of residents to one another.
  2. Those with diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.
    In early April, the CDC published its findings that individuals with diabetes, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular (heart) disease who also contract COVID-19 appear to be more susceptible to more severe illness and complications. In cases where information on underlying conditions was available to researchers, 10.9% of patients had diabetes, 9.2% had chronic lung disease, and 9% had cardiovascular disease.

    Diabetes makes it more difficult for your immune system to fight COVID-19, thus increasing the risk of complications. It is worth noting that individuals with well-managed diabetes are likely to be at lower risk for severe complications.

    For individuals with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or other lung diseases, the higher prevalence of severe symptoms or complications is due to a weakened immune system, as well as scarring, inflammation, or other lung damage.

    Those with underlying heart disease, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease (CAD), hypertension (high blood pressure), or other conditions, often experience complications due to the increased stress on the heart as a result of COVID-19.
  3. Anyone with a compromised immune system.
    There are numerous reasons a person’s immune system can be compromised. Many common reasons are medical conditions such as cancer or autoimmune diseases, cancer treatments, bone marrow or organ transplants, HIV/AIDS, and the use of steroids or other medications. Those who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed have weakened immune systems, meaning their body is less capable of fighting off disease. Therefore, there is a heightened risk of experiencing more severe symptoms of COVID-19 that can result in dangerous complications.

Individuals who fall into any of the above categories need to follow all precautions to protect themselves from COVID-19. Be sure to follow the recommendations from the CDC and your local health department. If you have questions or concerns, contact your healthcare provider. You can also schedule a telehealth appointment with a Kroger Health practitioner to address any concerns you may have.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.