CORONAVIRUS RISK: THE ELDERLY & UNDERLYING CONDITIONS
Older people are more apt to be affected by coronavirus than other groups. People over the age of 80 years and those with chronic diseases seem to be the most vulnerable. Why are older people at more risk? To start with, the likelihood of having chronic conditions increases fairly significantly as you get older. But the presence of chronic conditions only partially explains the higher death rate in older people.
As we age, our immune system gets weaker. This results in making older people more vulnerable to a variety of infections of all types.
The immune system’s response heightens in older people. This is where the immune system actually overreacts and produces too many of the chemicals to fight infection. This results in a severe inflammatory reaction which has the potential to cause significant damage in the body, including the failure of various organs.
The biggest risk factor for dying of coronavirus is cardiovascular (heart) disease, with a death rate estimated to be about 10.5%. But we don’t know why yet. This doesn’t mean that being infected by Coronvavirus necessarily causes a heart attack, it is just that people with underlying heart problems are more likely to become seriously ill and die from complications of coronavirus.
The increased risk of severe disease for those with diabetes is understandable. Diabetes depresses the immune system function and makes it harder to fight off viral infections. Elevated blood sugar levels in people with diabetes may be a better environment for viruses to thrive.
The enhanced risk of severe disease from Coronavirvus in people with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma and lung diseases is perhaps the likeliest underlying conditions of concern. Respiratory conditions, including uncontrolled asthma, which causes inflammation of a person’s airways could be exacerbated by infection with Coronavirus, which also targets the airways.
Older people and people with these conditions should take extra precautions to stay away from people, practice social distancing, keeping up with their medications, wiping their hands often, cleaning off surfaces, and keeping in touch with their doctors, especially if their conditions change.
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