These Are the Things That Increase Your Risk of Dying From Coronavirus

These risk factors could mean the difference between life and death.

As the coronavirus spreads like wildfire around the globe, we've all been witness to its destruction. At present, we're approaching a staggering worldwide death toll of 400,000 lives lost, roughly a quarter of which were lost right here in the U.S. Given the fact that many of us are likely to contract the coronavirus while waiting for a vaccine, it makes perfect sense that you might find yourself attempting to calculate your personal risk of facing the worst case scenario. Thankfully, knowing the signs, symptoms, and risk factors puts the power back in your hands: if your risk is indeed higher, you can take concrete steps to limit your exposure, and keep yourself safe. Read on to find out which factors increase your risk of dying from coronavirus, from the common-sense to the confounding. And to slash your coronavirus risk in one easy step, This Is the Easiest Thing You Can Do to Cut Your Coronavirus Risk in Half.

Having a BMI over 40

Heavy man measuring his waist

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the link between obesity and coronavirus is real, and it can be lethal: those with a BMI of 40 or above that contract the virus have a significantly higher risk of developing acute respiratory distress (ARDS), the condition responsible for most coronavirus deaths. But exactly how much higher is your risk of mortality if you're considered obese? Mark Hyman, MD, explains that people who are obese are three times more likely to die of coronavirus, making it one of the largest known risk factors for coronavirus-related mortality.

Being a man

Man wearing mask in city

In an interview with NPR, Veena Taneja, PhD, a researcher from the Mayo Clinic who studies gender differences in immunity against coronavirus, shared that men are at much greater risk of dying from COVID-19.

It has been widely concluded by researchers that women have generally healthier lifestyle habits and a statistically lower threshold for seeking medical attention—both of which could factor into their higher rates of survival. Taneja explains that women's bodies may also mount a stronger immune response to the virus because they carry two copies of the X-chromosome, which contains "a lot of immune-response genes." And to get up to speed with the latest safety recommendations, find out how the WHO Just Completely Changed Its Coronavirus Face Mask Guidelines.

Having any of these underlying conditions

closeup of Dr. taking blood pressure

In a report that reviewed over 4,000 coronavirus-related deaths in England and Wales, the U.K.'s Office of National Statistics determined that 9 out of 10 patients who died had at least one underlying health condition. The BBC reports that the most common co-morbidities were heart disease or hypertension, dementia, and respiratory illness—and on average, those who died had three additional health conditions beyond their primary condition.

Having a ring finger that's shorter than your middle finger

man's hand

According to a report published in the journal Early Human Development, there is a statistical correlation between a man's ring finger length, and his chances of dying from coronavirus. The reason comes down to testosterone levels, which have been shown to impact a person's immune response: the more testosterone, the longer the finger length, and the greater the immune response.

That said, if your ring finger is shorter than your middle finger it does not mean you're in danger—it simply means you're less likely to have a particular hormonal advantage against the virus, if you should contract it. And to find out which symptom is a major red flag, check out The No. 1 Warning Sign Coronavirus Is in Your Body.

Having these indicators in your blood

Gloved scientist hand holding blood tests

New research published in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence reveals that doctors can now effectively predict whether a patient will die of coronavirus within 10 days of testing.

According to Business Insider, researchers were able to use a simple blood test to measure "myriad kidney, heart, and blood clotting issues," and with the help of a machine learning program to process the data, they could predict a patient's outcome with 90 percent accuracy. The trio of markers for increased mortality include high levels of the enzyme LDH, Lymphopenia, and an increase of high sensitivity C-reactive proteins.

Living in a nursing home

Elderly woman with walker

We all know that age plays a major role in patient outcomes when it comes to coronavirus, but even amongst the elderly, there are higher risks in one population: those who live in nursing homes. A recent study published by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP) concluded that nursing homes and assisted living facilities accounted for 42 percent of coronavirus deaths.

This is likely due to a combination of factors, including advanced age, rampant transmission in shared spaces, and the prevalence of underlying conditions. And to find out what you can do to stay healthy, here are 5 Surprising Things That Slash Your Coronavirus Risk.

Having been exposed to a high concentration of the virus

Women trying to avoid their friend's sneeze

A recent study published in the journal JAMA concluded that healthcare workers are falling ill with more severe symptoms than the general population. While it remains unproven, many researchers theorize that this is because a person's level of initial exposure could affect how successful COVID-19 is in attacking the body.

This would mean, for example, that inhaling a deep breath of coughed or sneezed particles could do more damage than contracting coronavirus from a smaller quantity of the virus on a surface—all the more reason to keep six feet apart and wear your mask in public.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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