As with any illness, a key component of preventing your coronavirus infection is figuring out your risk of contracting it in the first place, and with COVID-19 we are learning that some are prone to infection. “Evidence is emerging that some people, beyond those who are older, are at greater risk than others,” Harlan Krumholz, MD, SM, a Yale Medicine cardiologist who is the director of the Yale New Haven Hospital Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health. Here are 7 things that put you more at risk for contracting COVID-19.
Your blood type may be a huge indicator of how likely you are to contract COVID-19. Two studies—one courtesy of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China and another from the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center—have both concluded that those with the blood type A are at a significantly higher risk of getting the virus compared to those of other blood types. Those with O blood types are less likely to get it. Why? While experts are still trying to figure it out, it could be due to a variety of factors, most of them having to do with immunity.
There are additional demographics that can also determine your likelihood of infection. For example, according to a recent analysis of data by the AP, African Americans are more susceptible to the virus. “Health conditions that exist at higher rates in the black community—obesity, diabetes and asthma—make African Americans more susceptible to the virus,” they point out. “They also are more likely to be uninsured, and often report that medical professionals take their ailments less seriously when they seek treatment.”
And, as far back as December, it became clear that age was also a major risk factor. Other research has found that men are slightly more likely to test positive than women, though it isn’t exactly clear why. Dr. Krumholz adds that socio-economic status is also a factor. “We are seeking to rapidly understand why these people have higher risk—and to determine strategies that can better protect them,” he says.
The CDC maintains that severe obesity—defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above—is a definite risk factor for COVID-19. While it isn’t clear how it influences an individual’s likelihood of contracting the virus, as that data doesn’t appear to be available, preliminary studies have concluded that it definitely influences the likelihood of hospitalization. “People living with severe obesity can have multiple serious chronic diseases and underlying health conditions that can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19,” explains the CDC.
According to the CDC, those with weakened immune systems (immunocompromised)—including individuals undergoing cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, who suffer immune deficiencies, HIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications—are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
“People with a weakened immune system have reduced ability to fight infectious diseases, including viruses like COVID-19,” they explain, “Knowledge is limited about the virus that causes COVID-19, but based on similar viruses, there is concern that immunocompromised patients may remain infectious for longer than other COVID-19 patients.”
There have been contradictory studies about the influence smoking and nicotine have when it comes to coronavirus risk. While one French study claims that those who smoke daily are less likely to develop a severe case of the illness, leading them to believe that nicotine substitutes could be a “potential preventative agent” against infection, other research has found quite the opposite. One overview of five separate studies published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that nicotine may aid in severe COVID-19 cases. It determined that “smoking is most likely associated with the negative progression and adverse outcomes of COVID-19.” Additionally, last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told Bloomberg News revised its stance on COVID-19 and nicotine, from saying that people who smoke could have worsened cases of the virus to adding that nicotine could also increase the chances of catching the coronavirus in the first place.
Dr. Krumholz points out that some people with certain underlying conditions have a greater risk of worse outcomes. According to the CDC there are specific preexisting conditions that can put individuals at a greater risk of COVID-19. These include serious heart conditions—including heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, and pulmonary hypertension—diabetes, chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, and chronic kidney disease.
Just by looking at a coronavirus infection map, it is clear that where you are in the world, country, state, and city impacts your likelihood and risk contracting COVID-19. If you are in a region where there are more reported cases of the virus, like New York City, there’s obviously more of a likelihood you will get it then if you are in a small town in Wyoming. The New York Times offers a helpful interactive map that can help determine how impacted your geographical location is.
And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.