Having This Spikes Your Risk of Long COVID by 90 Percent, New Study Says

Recent data finds patients with this condition are much more likely to report lingering symptoms.

Even as more than two years have passed since the pandemic began, we're still learning more about the novel coronavirus and how it affects people—especially in the long term. Now, the virus's ability to cause symptoms in some patients months or longer after their initial recovery has become a busy area of research for the medical community. And a new study has provided more information on who is at a higher risk of developing long COVID after infection, with one condition increasing the odds by as much as 90 percent. Read on to see what dramatically spikes your chances of a long-term battle with the virus.

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New research shows that long COVID is a troublingly common effect of contracting the virus.

Woman feeling sick on couch

Even though patients have reported lingering issues with COVID since the earlier days of the pandemic, it was only the passage of time that eventually showed long COVID was a relatively common outcome for survivors of the virus. According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that analyzed the medical records of 353,164 patients, one in five people under the age of 65 in the U.S. who've recovered from an initial COVID infection has reported at least one symptom or health condition related to long COVID, while one in four who are 65 or older have reported the same, per The New York Times.

The research found that patients reported symptoms ranging from complications in organ systems, including the kidneys, lungs, and heart, to gastrointestinal issues, blood circulatory problems, neurological conditions, and psychiatric issues. According to the results, the most common lingering ailments across all age groups were musculoskeletal pain and respiratory issues.

"It is sobering to see the results of this study again confirming the breadth of organ dysfunction and the scale of the problem," Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, chief of research and development at the V.A. St. Louis Health Care System and a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who was not involved in the study, told The Times.

A new study found those with certain conditions were 90 percent more likely to suffer long COVID.

sick at home series with a japanese man and woman.

But besides age being a risk factor, new research has also shed light on how other traits and medical conditions can affect how likely someone is to develop long COVID. In a recent unpublished study from genetic testing company 23andMe that has not been peer-reviewed, researchers used data from over 100,000 COVID patients, including more than 26,000 who self-reported lingering symptoms and over 7,000 diagnosed with long COVID.

Data analysis showed that in terms of risk factors, patients with a history of cardiometabolic disease—which includes hypertension, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and coronary artery disease—saw their chances of developing long COVID increase by 90 percent.

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The study also found other conditions that increase the likelihood of lingering symptoms.

Woman talking to female doctor

Results also showed that other conditions or traits could make someone more likely to suffer a lingering bout with symptoms. Data found that patients who reported previously having depression or anxiety saw a two-fold increase in their likelihood of a long COVID diagnosis. And analysis also upheld previous research in finding that "women are at least twice as likely to be diagnosed with long COVID compared to men even when controlling for age, ethnicity, and related health conditions," the researchers wrote. In fact, results showed that 78 percent of patients in the study diagnosed with long COVID were female.

Other results pointed at having survived a more severe illness from the virus also correlated with a higher instance of lingering symptoms. "Researchers found that individuals with COVID who required hospitalization had a more than ten-fold risk of being diagnosed with long COVID compared to those who were not hospitalized when controlling for age, sex, and ethnicity," the team said.

Despite the study's limitations, the findings could help guide further research on long COVID.

A lab technician looks at samples through a microscope

Despite the findings, the research team admits the study has some limitations. Most notably, the data used relied on self-reported symptoms from a group of consenting subjects instead of a random group of patients across a broader set of demographics. They also point out that long COVID diagnoses are "still nebulous and highly variable," with some reported symptoms still considered subjective.

However, the team ultimately concluded that their results could provide a solid foundation for forthcoming studies. "As people continue to deal with symptoms of long COVID, using studies like ours to better understand the illness will be increasingly important," the team writes. "Projecting over the millions of individuals worldwide who've been infected or are yet to be infected, the public health impact of long COVID is likely to linger for years to come. Understanding the underlying biology and associations may help as scientists wrestle with the best way to treat the condition."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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