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Study: Most COVID-19 Hospitalizations Caused by These 4 Pre-Existing Conditions

March 03, 2021

Four pre-existing conditions have accounted for most adult COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Tufts University researchers used a modeling study to estimate that 575,419, or 64 percent, of 906,849 total hospitalizations through Nov. 18 were attributed to:

  • Obesity: 30 percent.
  • Hypertension: 26 percent.
  • Diabetes: 21 percent.
  • Heart failure: 12 percent.
The researchers said those hospitalizations could have been avoided if the patients, even after being infected with COVID-19, did not already suffer from at least one of the four cardiometabolic conditions. The model also revealed the effects of age: Diabetes accounted for about 29 percent of hospitalizations among COVID patients over 65 years old, but only 8 percent among patients 50 or younger. Obesity, however, affected all age groups equally. For many patients, symptoms can remain for months. “From a cardiology standpoint," says Dr. Stephanie Saucier, a cardiologist and a director of the Women's Heart Wellness Program at Hartford HealthCare's Heart & Vascular Institute, "we are seeing patients who, post-COVID, are having shortness of breath with exertion, rapid heartbeats, irregular heartbeats and some people have chest pain after having COVID. "These are people who had underlying heart issues prior to getting COVID, but some of them had no heart issues and are experiencing new symptoms. If you are experiencing any type of issue, tell your doctor so we can evaluate these symptoms and see if it’s something that will improve with time or an issue that needs more attention." Dr. Saucier is also seeing patients coming through Hartford HealthCare’s COVID Recovery Center (860.827.3200), the state’s first center for patients with long-term COVID-19 symptoms. The Tufts researchers suggested addressing the four cardiometabolic conditions, even through basic lifestyle changes, might reduce hospitalizations, disease and strains on the nation's healthcare system. "We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve metabolic health within just six to eight weeks," said Dariush Mozaffarian, the study's lead author. "It's crucial to test such lifestyle approaches for reducing severe COVID-19 infections, foth for this pandemic and future pandemics likely to come."