How Other Health Conditions Interact with COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

By Lily H-A

From PHN Issue 44, Fall 2020

Researchers have found that there are certain factors, including having other health conditions, that make it more likely you will have a severe illness if you catch COVID-19.

Here are some of the factors that seem to go along with more complications from COVID-19. Of course, having these health conditions doesn’t guarantee you’ll definitely get severely ill if you catch COVID-19. And people who are otherwise healthy can still get very ill if they catch COVID-19. The best way to prevent getting severe complications from COVID-19 is to not get it at all, so it’s important to keep practicing social distancing when possible, wearing a face covering, and practicing hand hygiene.

Some of these you can do more about than others. For the ones you can do something about, we’ve included some tips. Eating healthy, being physically active, and quitting smoking can improve or lower your risk of a lot of these health conditions. If you take medications, take them regularly and make sure you have enough refills.

  • Cancer
  • Pregnancy
  • Having had an organ transplant and/or being on immunosuppressant medication
  • Heart conditions (coronary artery disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathies): Many heart conditions can be prevented or improved by eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol; getting regular exercise; and avoiding or cutting down on smoking, drugs and alcohol.
  • Sickle cell disease: Do your best to maintain your healthy lifestyle routines and take any medications you are prescribed in order to avoid having a sickle cell crisis.
  • Smoking cigarettes: Smoking weakens the lungs, which COVID-19 attacks. If you’re trying to quit or cut back on smoking, making a plan, talking to others for support, and using nicotine patches or gum if you can get them can help. There are also some medications doctors can prescribe that can help with quitting.
  • Asthma: Have your inhaler or other medications on hand and know how to use them. Avoid your asthma triggers as much as you can (like smoke or allergies). Keeping a diary of your symptoms and how often you’re using rescue medications can be helpful in telling the difference between your regular asthma and if your breathing could be getting worse due to COVID-19.
  • COPD: Quitting smoking can help prevent COPD, or improve it if you have it. If you have COPD, staying active can help keep your lungs as strong as possible. Like with asthma, keep track of your symptoms, and if your breathing is getting worse, get medical attention.
  • Chronic kidney disease: Some things that help with CKD are quitting smoking, managing your blood pressure, regular exercise, and eating a low protein and low potassium diet. Stay well hydrated—drink lots of water and other fluids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can dehydrate you.
  • Type 2 diabetes: If you have type 2 diabetes, it’s important to eat healthy (lots of fruits and vegetables) and at as regular intervals as you can, monitor your blood sugar, stay active, and keep up with your medications.

You can get a free copy of the Prisoner Diabetes Handbook, which has lots more tips about managing diabetes, by writing to:

Prison Legal News

P.O. Box 1151

Lake Worth, FL 33460

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure): Some of the things that help lower blood pressure are regular exercise, stress reduction (like meditation), quitting smoking, and a low fat, low salt diet with as much fruits and vegetables as possible. Look at nutritional info when you can — snacks and processed food can sneak in a lot of salt. Keep track of your blood pressure when it’s possible to get it measured. Talk to your doctor about medication. If you’re already on medication and your blood pressure is still high, talk to them about changing your dose or adding or changing medications.

Information on conditions that interact with COVID-19 is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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