Nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations attributed to 4 common underlying conditions, NIH says

Nearly two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. could be attributed to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure, according to the National Institutes of Health.

A recent report by the National Institutes of Health illustrates how common underlying medical conditions put people at higher risk for severe illness from the novel coronavirus.

The report cited a statistical model developed by researchers at Tufts University in Massachusetts led by Meghan O’Hearn and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian. 

Researchers found that more than 900,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred through November 2020, 30% of which were attributed to patients with obesity. More than a quarter — 26% of patients — had hypertension, 21% had diabetes, and 12% had heart failure. 

Researchers also noted that 64% of hospitalizations might have been prevented if not for the four common, but potentially serious conditions. 

"Medical providers should educate patients who may be at risk for severe COVID-19 and consider promoting preventive lifestyle measures, such as improved dietary quality and physical activity, to improve overall cardiometabolic health," says O’Hearn.

Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that adults at any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:

"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," the CDC wrote on its website.

In June, the CDC changed the list of underlying conditions that make a person more susceptible to suffering and death related to COVID-19. Sickle cell disease joined the list, for example. And the threshold for risky levels of obesity was lowered.

Agency officials said the update was prompted by medical studies published since the CDC first started listing high-risk groups. They sought to publicize the information before Independence Day weekend, when many people may be tempted to go out and socialize.

"For those at higher risk, we recommend limiting contact with others as much as possible, or restricting contacts to a small number of people who are willing to take measures to reduce the risk of (you) becoming infected," said then-CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.

According to the CDC, it is estimated that 60 percent of all American adults have at least one chronic medical condition, so the latest changes to the agency’s list increase the number of people who fall into higher risk groups.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.