I’m sure you’ve heard by now that people who contract the COVID-19 virus and have underlying health conditions are dying at a disproportionate rate.
According to the CDC, people with asthma, diabetes, serious heart conditions and other underlying medical conditions are more likely to suffer severe illness if they contract COVID-19.
Chronic medical conditions increase the risk especially among minorities for serious complications when the virus is contracted, resulting in a higher rate of death.
While good hygiene such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, cleaning and disinfecting your home regularly, wearing a protective mask, practicing social distancing and staying away from sick people can help reduce the chances of contracting the virus, those with underlying health issues who contract the virus still run a higher risk of really suffering and possibly dying from the disease.
What are the underlying conditions, and what do they mean for me?
People 65 years old and older are considered at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than those under 65. People of all ages with the following underlying medical conditions, especially conditions that are not well controlled, run a high risk of suffering severe illness from COVID-19.
Underlying medical conditions
- Chronic lung disease
- Moderate to severe asthma
- Serious heart conditions
- Cancer treatment
- Bone marrow or organ transplants
- Immune deficiencies
- Poorly controlled HIV or AIDS
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medicines
- Obese (BMI (body mass index) of 30 or higher) (as of 17-Jul-20)
- Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
- Liver disease
If you have been diagnosed with any of the conditions above, you need to be especially vigilant in protecting yourself against COVID-19.
What you need to know about serious heart conditions
‘Serious heart conditions’ is a relatively broad term. Unfortunately, because the term doesn’t specify which heart-related conditions fall under that umbrella, it may lead people to believe their condition might not be considered serious.
These heart conditions are considered serious by the CDC:
- Heart failure
- Coronary artery disease
- Congenital heart disease
- Pulmonary hypertension
Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, occurs when your heart fails to pump blood as well as it should. Coronary artery disease and high blood pressure can leave your heart too weak to fill and pump correctly.
Coronary artery disease Coronary arteries are major blood vessels that supply your heart with blood, oxygen and nutrients. Plaque (deposits that contain cholesterol) build-up narrows your arteries, which decreases the blood supply to your heart. The disease develops when these arteries become diseased or damaged.
Because coronary artery disease often isn’t noticeable and usually develops over time, your first sign might be:
- Chest pain (angina)
- Shortness of breath or
- A heart attack
Risk factors for coronary heart disease include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart disease
- Unhealthy diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High levels of stress
Congenital heart disease refers to a baby born with heart valve, septum, chamber or artery problems.
Cardiomyopathies usually cause the heart muscle to enlarged, thick or rigid.
Pulmonary hypertension occurs when the arteries in your lungs and the right side of your heart are affected by high blood pressure. 
If you have an underlying condition that is considered controllable, there are additional steps you should consider to help reduce the risk factors that put you at higher risk.
What you can do right now to help reduce risk factors
Talk to your doctor or health care provider to find out if there are additional steps you can take to control or eliminate your condition.
Implement small changes
It’s great if you’re currently controlling your condition with medications – continue to do so. But never underestimate the effect a single change can have on your health.
Here’s a list of medical conditions and changes to consider in addition to your current medications to help improve your health:
- High blood pressure (hypertension) – lower your sodium intake
- High cholesterol – lower the amount of fat, especially saturated fat and cut out trans fats
- Obesity – exercise and eat a healthy diet
- Diabetes – lower your sugar intake
- Smoking – stop smoking
- Unhealthy diet – eat a well balanced diet daily
- Sedentary lifestyle – implement physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week
- High levels of stress – relax – reduce and manage situations that may cause stress
Track your progress
Keep a log of your numbers. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – jotting it down in a notebook or sticky note will do as long as you include the date, time, result such as your blood pressure reading, your sodium intake and the time and type of exercises you do.
Share the information
Tell family members, friends and co-workers about what’s going on with you. Your story may be a testimony for someone else, and it just might spark them to make changes too.
Find an accountability partner
Find someone to help you stay on track by checking in on you regularly to make sure you are taking the actions you need to when you’re supposed to.
Even if the worst of the virus is behind us, addressing these risk factors can’t hurt. They could actually help improve your quality of life.
In fact, they just might be the difference between life and death.
Summing it up:
COVID-19 can be serious. People with underlying health conditions who contract the virus are at higher risk of suffering severe illness or death. You should become familiar with ways to help further reduce risk factors that lead to underlying health conditions.
Understand these factors and make lifestyle changes to help reduce the impact and severity if you contract COVID-19.
Be informed. Be intentional. Be in good health.
 People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness. (2020, May 14). Retrieved May 21, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-at-higher-risk.html
 State Testing Data by Race. (2020, May). Retrieved May 28, 2020, from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/racial-data-transparency
 Heart failure. (2020, May 29). Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373142
 Coronary artery disease – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronary-artery-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350613
 Congenital Heart Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.childrens.com/specialties-services/conditions/congenital-heart-disease?msclkid=4f2a01b1db9d12cdd3785f6031566209
 What Is Cardiomyopathy in Adults? (2016, March 31). Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cardiomyopathy/what-is-cardiomyopathy-in-adults
 Pulmonary hypertension. (2020, March 20). Retrieved May 30, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pulmonary-hypertension/symptoms-causes/syc-20350697
 People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions. (2020, July 17). Retrieved July 18, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precautions%2Fgroups-at-higher-risk.html#obesity