You’ve heard what to look out for for symptoms of the novel coronavirus, and by now you have likely heard firsthand accounts of what it’s like from friends or family that are experiencing it themselves. For many people, COVID-19 causes mild to moderate symptoms that do not require hospitalization. In certain high-risk populations, like people over 60, people who are immunocompromised, and people with pre existing conditions, the virus can be severe or even fatal.
Here are three pre-existing chronic conditions that may make it harder for an otherwise healthy person to fight off the new coronavirus:
Heart disease is part of a group of conditions known as cardiovascular disease, in which the blood vessels in your body are damaged or unable to function normally. COVID-19 causes fever and increased inflammation, which can increase the stress on the heart and blood vessels. COVID-19 has been shown to cause pneumonia, which makes it harder for your lungs to oxygenate the blood, which puts further stress on your heart.
Heart disease also tends to accompany other underlying conditions that can increase risk, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, lung disease, and liver disease. These all weaken your body’s defense against infection.
Chronic lung conditions
People with chronic lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, or pulmonary hypertension are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the pneumonia that can accompany COVID-19. Your lungs are crucial for bringing oxygen to your body. When this is compromised, it can be lethal.
Diabetes is a condition where your body either stops responding properly to insulin or doesn’t make enough insulin. This results in high blood sugar if it’s not managed properly. Diabetes can also cause a number of secondary issues, including a compromised immune system. Because the immune system is compromised in diabetes, it can be harder for your body to fight off COVID-19. High blood sugar may even help the virus survive longer.
Now more than ever it is important to maintain a healthy diet, especially if you are dealing with a chronic condition. A healthy diet not only helps to manage the chronic condition, it can help keep your body and immune system in fighting shape to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.
In addition to following an overall healthy diet, adding certain immune-boosting foods can help boost your immune system to better ward off or fight viruses.
- Broccoli stems and florets contain a bioactive compound called sulforaphane that stimulates the immune system to increase natural killer cells, which may help in fighting viruses. Broccoli sprouts contain even higher amounts. In a study in people given a nasal flu vaccine, those who consumed 1 cup of broccoli sprouts in a smoothie had less flu virus remaining compared to a control group.
- Mushrooms can stimulate the immune system in a different way. A study found that 1 ⅓ cups of mushrooms could increase IgA by 55%. IgA (immunoglobulin A) is a natural antibody that exists in the mucous membrane of the gastrointestinal tract, and is an important factor for preventing viral infections.
- Aged garlic is another useful addition. Like broccoli, aged garlic extract can increase levels of natural killer cells. Even more important — in a clinical trial people taking aged garlic had fewer cold and flu symptoms and reported 58% fewer missed days of work due to illness. Aged garlic extract can be found as a supplement, or you can make it at home.