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Signs You're at High Risk For COVID

Protect yourself before it's too late.

Now that the CDC has announced that 94% of COVID-19 deaths also involved an underlying condition, the agency's list of who is at "high risk" for getting severely ill from COVID-19 is essential to know. All the more so since President Trump and the First Lady have tested positive for COVID-19. "Understanding who is most at risk for severe illness helps people make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and their communities," CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, has said. "While we are all at risk for COVID-19, we need to be aware of who is susceptible to severe complications so that we take appropriate measures to protect their health and well-being." Here are the essentials of the CDC list. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.


The Older You Are, the Higher the Risk

senior woman wearing protective medical mask for protection from virus at home

No longer are those "65 and over" being defined as the higher risk age group. "CDC now warns that among adults, risk increases steadily as you age, and it's not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk for severe illness," they explain. They point to recent data, including an MMWR study, showing that the older people are, the higher their risk of severe illness from COVID-19. "Age is an independent risk factor for severe illness, but risk in older adults is also in part related to the increased likelihood that older adults also have underlying medical conditions," they point out. 


High Risk: Chronic Kidney Disease

Woman suffering from pain kidney disease while sitting on bed at home.

As part of their updated list of underlying medical conditions that increase risk of severe illness, the CDC found there was consistent evidence (from multiple small studies or a strong association from a large study) that specific conditions increase a person's risk of severe COVID-19 illness. An estimated 60 percent of American adults have at least one chronic medical condition. The more underlying medical conditions people have, the higher their risk. One of these includes chronic kidney disease. "Having chronic kidney disease of any stage increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19," they explain, offering several recommendations for those with the condition. 


High Risk: COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), Cystic Fibrosis, Pulmonary Fibrosis, and Other Chronic Lung Diseases

Doctor check up x-ray image have problem lung tumor of patient.

"Having COPD (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis) is known to increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19," explains the CDC. Other chronic lung diseases can also result in complications, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis.

RELATED: I'm a Lung Doctor and Here's How to Tell if You Have COVID


High Risk: Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)

Obese woman at a carnival

"Obesity is one of the most common underlying conditions that increases one's risk for severe illness—with about 40 percent of U.S. adults having obesity," the CDC points out. According to a study, those with obesity are three times as likely to die from coronavirus than those with a normal body weight. 


High Risk: Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) From Solid Organ Transplant

Young woman wearing face mask in clinic ward recovering from coronavirus disease. Sick

An immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood, bone marrow, or organ transplant; HIV; use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines, can put you at risk for severe coronavirus. "Many conditions and treatments can cause a person to be immunocompromised or have a weakened immune system," they explain. "These include: having a solid organ transplant, blood, or bone marrow transplant; immune deficiencies; HIV with a low CD4 cell count or not on HIV treatment; prolonged use of corticosteroids; or use of other immune weakening medicines."


High Risk: Serious Heart Conditions, Such as Heart Failure, Coronary Artery Disease, or Cardiomyopathies

Man Having Chest Pains

Having serious heart conditions—heart failure, coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathies, pulmonary hypertension—increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. One major study found that heart disease was the most common comorbidity of those who experienced severe coronavirus symptoms, accounting for nearly a third.

RELATED: 11 Signs COVID is in Your Heart


High Risk: Hemoglobin Disorders Such as Sickle Cell Disease and Thalassemia

Female Technician holding blood tube test, a rack of blood samples Tubes of patients in laboratory in the hospital.

Having sickle cell disease (SCD) increases your risk for severe illness from COVID-19, according to the CDC. Having other hemoglobin disorders, like thalassemia, may increase your risk for severe illness from COVID-19.


High Risk: Type 2 Diabetes

Doctor checking blood sugar level with glucometer. Treatment of diabetes concept.

Having type 2 diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. "Based on what we know at this time, having type 1 or gestational diabetes may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19," writes the CDC. One study found that people who suffer from the coronavirus who have Type 2 diabetes—the most common form of diabetes—are twice as likely to die than those who do not suffer from diabetes. 


Possible Risk: Asthma

man using asthma machine at home.

The CDC also clarified the list of other conditions that might increase a person's risk of severe illness, including additions such as asthma. "COVID-19 can affect your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs), cause an asthma attack, and possibly lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory disease," the CDC writes


Possible Risk: High Blood Pressure

Doctor Checking High Blood Pressure In Face Mask

In addition to serious heart conditions, having other cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, such as hypertension (high blood pressure) may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19," says the CDC. According to one study, published June 4 in European Heart Journal, hypertension doubles your chance of mortality. "It is important that patients with high blood pressure realize that they are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19," study co-author Professor Ling Tao department of cardiology, Xijing Hospital in Xi'an explained in a press release. "They should take good care of themselves during this pandemic and they need more attention if they are infected with the coronavirus."

RELATED: 8 Warning Signs COVID-19 Is In Your Blood


Possible Risk: Neurologic Conditions Such as Dementia

Moody aged man feeling unhappy.

Having neurologic conditions such as dementia may increase your risk of severe illness from COVID-19, says the CDC. One analysis of data from Pennsylvania and New York courtesy of NPR, found that people with intellectual disabilities and autism –including dementia — who are infected with COVID-19 die at higher rates than the rest of the population. 


Possible Risk: Cerebrovascular Disease Such as Stroke

CT scan of the brain of a patient with intracranial hemorrhage

In addition to other heart conditions, a history of stroke can put you more at risk for serious COVID-19 infection. 

RELATED: Signs COVID-19 is in Your Brain


Possible Risk: Pregnancy

Portrait of the young pregnant woman

According to an MMWR report published recently pregnant women were significantly more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the intensive care unit, and receive mechanical ventilation than nonpregnant women. However, pregnant women were not at greater risk for death from COVID-19.


The Complete CDC List of Conditions

Crying elderly woman with cancer and a volunteer taking care of her

Reports the CDC: "People of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
  • Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus"

The agency continues: "COVID-19 is a new disease. Currently there are limited data and information about the impact of underlying medical conditions and whether they increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Based on what we know at this time, people with the following conditions might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
  • Cerebrovascular disease (affects blood vessels and blood supply to the brain)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
  • Neurologic conditions, such as dementia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (having damaged or scarred lung tissues)
  • Smoking
  • Thalassemia (a type of blood disorder)
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus"

Protect Yourself, Your Family, and Your Community

Grandmother and grandson separated by social distancing on park bench

The CDC encourages keeping your potential exposure to the virus at a minimum. "Every activity that involves contact with others has some degree of risk right now. Knowing if you are at increased risk for severe illness and understanding the risks associated with different activities of daily living can help you make informed decisions about which activities to resume and what level of risk you will accept. This information is especially critical as communities begin to reopen," they write. They suggest "focusing on activities where social distancing can be maintained, washing your hands frequently, limiting contact with and disinfecting commonly touched surfaces or shared items, and wearing a cloth face covering when you are around people you do not live with, especially when it is difficult to stay 6 feet apart or when people are indoors." 

As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah