If you have a chronic condition and take medication to treat it, a new article published in The Lancet shows that you could be raising your odds of negative COVID-19 outcomes.
One study that involved 52 intensive care patients with the virus found that the 32 who died from it were more likely to have diabetes and cerebrovascular diseases than those who survived it.
A different study, meanwhile, involving 1,099 participants showed that among those who had the most severe disease, more than 23 percent had diabetes and more than 16 percent had coronary heart disease.
A third study of 5,700 hospitalized coronavirus patients found that 57 percent of them had high blood pressure, while more than a third had diabetes and 41 percent were obese.
These studies indicate that having high blood pressure and diabetes may make you more likely to have severe consequences from COVID-19 – and it could even increase your likelihood of being infected to begin with.
Many of the underlying conditions that are being found frequently in older coronavirus patients, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, are treated with a class of drugs known as ACE inhibitors. These include medications like lisonopril, benazepril, and captopril, and they raise your body’s production of the ACE enzyme 2. Found in the epithelial cells of the intestines, lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys, these cells are also used by coronaviruses to help them bind to target cells.
Researchers believe that ACE2 could be serving as a type of “gateway” to help the virus get into the body and infect a person’s cells, and they’re calling for patients who take these medications to be monitored closely. It’s also worth noting that ACE2 can be raised by the over-the-counter medication ibuprofen, so this may also be worth avoiding if you're hoping to keep your risk in check.
If you take these medications, it’s not a good idea to suddenly stop taking them, but you could ask your doctor about safer alternatives and look for ways to improve your blood pressure and blood sugar naturally.
According to one of the studies, a type of blood pressure medication known as calcium channel blockers did not seem to raise ACE2 levels and could therefore be a potential alternative. However, some people may be able to help control these issues by changing their lifestyle, which could have other positive effects on overall health. Getting plenty of exercise and working on maintaining a healthy weight is always a good idea, even if you’re not taking a risky medication.
It’s also a good idea to consume plenty of foods high in antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats. Of course, what you don’t eat is just as important – all the kale and salmon in the world won’t do you that much good if you’re eating processed, sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis.
As further studies continue into the role of ACE inhibitors in coronavirus spread and outcomes, you should be vigilant for symptoms of the virus if you are taking any of these medications and seek treatment right away if you have a fever, headache, impaired sense of smell or taste, trouble breathing, and/or a dry cough. Practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently to help avoid getting sick.
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