Over Half of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Due to 4 Conditions

February 26, 2021
Killian Meara

Patients with cardiometabolic conditions have a high risk of poor outcomes.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University has suggested that a majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations can be attributed to at least 1 of 4 pre-existing conditions. Results from the study were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA).

The four conditions included obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart failure and were chosen based on research that was published from around the world that showed each of them as an independent predictor of more severe disease outcomes and hospitalizations in those with a confirmed COVID-19 infection.

"While newly authorized COVID-19 vaccines will eventually reduce infections, we have a long way to go to get to that point. Our findings call for interventions to determine whether improving cardiometabolic health will reduce hospitalizations, morbidity, and health care strains from COVID-19," Dariush Mozaffarian, the lead author on the study said.

"We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve metabolic health within just six to eight weeks. It's crucial to test such lifestyle approaches for reducing severe COVID-19 infections, both for this pandemic and future pandemics likely to come."

The team behind the study employed a mathematical simulation to estimate the total number and proportion of national hospitalizations due to COVID-19 which may have been prevented if the patients did not suffer from one of the 4 conditions. Data from 5,000 patients who were diagnosed in New York City early in the pandemic was analyzed and compared with other national data to model the number of hospitalizations attributable to the virus.

Findings from the study showed that of the 906,849 total COVID-19 hospitalizations in the US as of November 18, 2020, 30% were attributable to obesity, 26% to hypertension, 21% to diabetes and 12% to heart failure.

Additionally, the investigators estimated that 64% of COVID-19 hospitalizations could have potentially been prevented when combining the numbers if the conditions were not present. They also found that a 10% reduction in the national prevalence of each condition could have prevented around 11% of all hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

"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,” Meghan O'Hearn, first author on the study said. “It's also important for providers to be aware of the health disparities people with these conditions often face.”