These health factors best predict whether someone is likely to die from COVID

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Credit: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

By looking at patients during the one-week peak of coronavirus in New Orleans, [Dr. Josh] Denson found that the overlap of certain conditions, known as metabolic syndrome, could predict a “lethal outcome,” Denson said.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of at least three of five conditions: high fasting blood sugar, which indicates diabetes or pre-diabetes; high blood pressure; high triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood; low HDL, the “good” cholesterol; and obesity, defined as a body-mass index of 30 or above.

According to the study, when a patient had diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, they were 3.4 times as likely to die in the hospital than a patient without metabolic syndrome.

It’s still not clear why the coronavirus hits people with these conditions harder.

“For typical respiratory viruses, usually when I have someone with the flu or another coronavirus, people who get it and get really sick are from all walks of life,” said Denson. He said the increased risk may be related to the level of inflammation caused by excess fat cells.

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“The ACE2 receptor is very prevalent on fat cells,” said [diabetes expert Eric] Ravussin, who is not associated with the study. “It’s also more prevalent in the lungs of people with obesity. If you have more attachment, you will have a higher viral load.”

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