Underlying Conditions and COVID-19

You’ve heard in the news, warnings about underlying conditions and the role they play in COVID-19. Chronic conditions such as type 1 diabetes, asthma, lung disease like COPD, heart disease, and cancer, are at the top of the list. Other diseases such as lupus can compromise your immune system. These conditions are already a challenge to deal with in daily life, but they also bring on more risks for other infections and respiratory viruses such as COVID-19. You can manage some of these diseases with medication and treatment, however, to stay as healthy as possible, so you’re prepared for a future crisis such as COVID-19.

mask, sanitize, clean, covid

Photo by Anshu A on Unsplash


Diabetes is one of the most common health issues in the United States. In recent years, ongoing research has provided many improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes, which has allowed for better management as well as prevention for type 2 diabetes. Here are just a few of the things everyone should know about diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

Basically, type 1 diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body struggles with managing blood sugar levels. It’s caused by your body’s inability to either use or make insulin, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar. As a result, one of two things happen, either the body does not make enough of any insulin or the cells in your body are resistant and cannot effectively use the insulin being created. If your body isn’t using insulin to metabolize glucose (a simple sugar) it builds up in the blood, causing high levels of blood sugar, which prevents the cells in your body from getting the energy required to work properly. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition and there is no cure, so it requires careful management and often medication, to keep the blood sugar levels within a targeted range.

Type 2 Diabetes

One of the most common misconceptions about type 2 diabetes is that you won’t get it unless you are older, overweight, and inactive. Research has shown that the condition is also becoming a concern for those who are of average weight and younger. One may look healthy on the outside, but there are various unhealthy habits that may trick the body into thinking it is overweight and/or unhealthy, which puts them at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


For example, when you go to bed, your insulin level may be stable, but when you skip breakfast, it causes your insulin level to drop and then spike and crash when you eat lunch. This yo-yo effect may cause your body to build up a resistance to insulin, so skipping breakfast may increase your risk of being diagnosed with diabetes by 54%.

Type 2 diabetes can go unnoticed for years. Many of the symptoms, such as increased hunger, fatigue, and increased thirst are often hard to pinpoint and can often develop over a long period of time. For this reason, it is critical to be tested early on if you have any of these symptoms.

Fortunately, there are some basic things that you can do to help prevent, manage, and/or reverse type 2 diabetes, including maintaining a healthy weight, exercising daily, limiting sugary drinks and saturated fats in your diet, and avoiding tobacco use. If type 2 diabetes is left untreated for too long, it can lead to several life-threatening complications. Compromising your health will make it more difficult to fight off infections and viruses such as COVID-19, influenza, and other invasive respiratory illnesses.

If you are concerned that you may have type 2 diabetes, contact one of our Family Medicine facilities for a full checkup and blood test.


When allergens get into your airways, they can cause your lungs to swell and make it harder to breathe. While scary at times, this condition is actually very common and can sometimes be treated with medications that help open your airways so you can breathe better.

Asthma symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Chest tightness

While most people can live normal lives with asthma, an estimated 10 Americans die each day from asthma attacks. And now we know that asthma suffers are more prone to deadly complications from COVID-19, SARS, and other respiratory viruses.

Visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to learn more about asthma and allergies.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. People who have bronchitis often cough up thick mucus, which can be discolored. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.

Acute bronchitis, also called a chest cold, usually improves within a week to 10 days without lasting effects, although the cough may linger for weeks.

Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining in the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking. Chronic bronchitis is one type of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The inflamed bronchial tubes produce a lot of mucus. This leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Breathing in air pollution, fumes, or dust over a long period of time may also cause it. Poor air quality with the heat causes labored breathing. Lung damage from this disease can compromise your chances of recovery from a respiratory virus.



Smoking as we all know can be deadly on its own. Some of the following harsh facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the importance of restraining from starting and/or quitting smoking, even if you’ve been a long-time smoker:

  • Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
  • Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Illegal drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Motor vehicle injuries
    • Firearm-related incidents
  • More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States.
  • Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths.  More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
  • Smoking causes about 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.
  • Estimates show smoking increases the risk:
    • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
    • For stroke by 2 to 4 times
    • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
    • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times
  • Smoking causes stroke and coronary heart disease, which are among the leading causes of death in the United States.
  • Even people who smoke fewer than five cigarettes a day can have early signs of cardiovascular disease.
  • Smoking damages blood vessels and can make them thicken and grow narrower. This makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure goes up. Clots can also form.
  • A stroke occurs when:
    • A clot blocks the blood flow to part of your brain;
    • A blood vessel in or around your brain bursts.
  • Blockages caused by smoking can also reduce blood flow to your legs and skin.
  • Smoking can cause lung disease by damaging your airways and the small air sacs (alveoli) found in your lungs.
  • Lung diseases caused by smoking include COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  • If you have asthma, tobacco smoke can trigger an attack or make an attack worse.
  • Smoking can cause cancer almost anywhere in your body:
    • Bladder
    • Blood (acute myeloid leukemia)
    • Cervix
    • Colon and rectum (colorectal)
    • Esophagus
    • Kidney and ureter
    • Larynx
    • Liver
    • Oropharynx (includes parts of the throat, tongue, soft palate, and the tonsils)
    • Pancreas
    • Stomach
    • Trachea, bronchus, and lung
  • Smoking also increases the risk of dying from cancer and other diseases in cancer patients and survivors.
  • Smoking can make it harder for a woman to become pregnant. It can also affect her baby’s health before and after birth. Smoking increases risks for:
    • Preterm (early) delivery
    • Stillbirth (death of the baby before birth)
    • Low birth weight
    • Sudden infant death syndrome (known as SIDS or crib death)
    • Ectopic pregnancy
    • Orofacial clefts in infants
  • Smoking can also affect men’s sperm, which can reduce fertility and increase risks for birth defects and miscarriage.
  • Smoking can affect bone health.
  • Women past childbearing years who smoke have weaker bones than women who never smoked. They are also at greater risk for broken bones.
  • Smoking affects the health of your teeth and gums and can cause tooth loss.
  • Smoking can increase your risk for cataracts (clouding of the eye’s lens that makes it hard for you to see). It can also cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is damage to a small spot near the center of the retina, the part of the eye needed for central vision.
  • Smoking is a cause of type 2 diabetes and can make it harder to control. The risk of developing diabetes is 30–40% higher for active smokers than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking causes general adverse effects on the body, including inflammation and decreased immune function.
  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Quitting smoking cuts cardiovascular risks. Just 1 year after quitting smoking, your risk for a heart attack drops sharply.
  • Within 2 to 5 years after quitting smoking, your risk for stroke may reduce to about that of a nonsmoker’s.
  • If you quit smoking, your risks for cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, and bladder drop by half within 5 years.
  • Ten years after you quit smoking, your risk for dying from lung cancer drops by half.


Long-term inhalation of any smoke or carcinogenic will compromise the lungs and heart where they will not be able to recover from a deadly respiratory virus like COVID-19. Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health.


Vaping, which is now deemed just as dangerous as cigarette smoking, has become very popular, especially with teens and young adults. In past news, teens and young adults died of vaping-related complications.

According to the CDC, nearly 21% of high school students use e-cigarettes. That is an increase of nearly 78% in just one year. Among middle school students, the growth rate is 48.5%.

The CDC has urged everyone who vapes to stop until further research is done. Heed the warning signs and keep your lungs healthy.

Improving Your Lung Health

As mentioned above, there are many things that can affect your lung health. Have you ever had a test at your doctor’s office where you blow into a tube? Testing your lung capacity and cardiovascular health is a good start to see what you need to do to improve your lungs. The good news is, your lungs are resilient and can improve over time with exercise if you do not have a chronic disease mentioned. Cardio exercises like walking, running, swimming or biking will help condition your lungs and strengthen your heart.

Not smoking/vaping and not being around exhaust from vehicles or manufacturing plants, will help your lung health. Wearing a mask is not uncommon these days so why not wear one when you are around harmful elements in the air.

Heart Disease

The most important muscle to exercise is your heart. Heart disease is the most common cause of death for men and women, followed closely by cancer in the United States.


Heart disease is a term used to describe any disorder of the cardiovascular system, which affects your heart’s ability to function correctly. It is basically an “umbrella” term to that includes coronary artery disease, heart failure, angina, arrhythmia, and other heart-related irregularities and infections. Common heart problems that affect men and women include:

  • Atherosclerosis – a buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries that supply your blood to the heart. When the blood flow is blocked, the heart muscle begins to die, which leads to a heart attack.
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heart valve disease
  • Chest pain and discomfort (angina) (affects women more than men). There are two specific types of angina: stable angina and variant angina.
  • Cardiac syndrome X (affects women more than men).


It is possible to develop the cardiovascular disease without knowing it, so it is never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Although the most common sign of a heart attack in men is chest pain and discomfort, not everyone that has a heart attack will suddenly experience severe chest pain. It is possible to have discomfort that isn’t necessarily painful in areas of your body, such as your jaw, abdomen, arms, neck, or back. During a heart attack, you may also have nausea, shortness of breath, numb limbs, profuse sweating, and/or feel light-headed.

Different Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women

Women who are having a heart attack are more likely than men to be misdiagnosed, which means women are less likely to get the necessary treatment before serious damages to their heart occurs. It is extremely important to keep in mind that women are more likely to have nontraditional symptoms of a heart attack and women are also more likely to have a silent heart attack. Heart attack symptoms of women may include:

  • Pain and/or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain may be mild or strong and it can last for more than a few minutes, or it can stop and come back
  • Indigestion
  • Pain in the neck, back, throat, or jaw
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing

Getting to the ER as quickly as possible is essential if you think you are having a heart attack because the treatments for opening clogged arteries work best when administered within the first hour after the heart attack begins. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately or find the nearest Surepoint ER. We are equipped to handle:

  • Chest Pain
  • Heart Attacks
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • High Blood Pressure/Hypertension

There are preventive measures you can take that may help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack, including getting screenings and regular checkups from your doctor, staying active, eating healthy, and avoiding unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. When it comes to heart health, there is never a right or wrong age to start taking care of your heart. Here are a few “Healthy Heart Tips” to help keep your heart healthy at any age:

Eat a Healthy Diet

One of the most important things that can improve heart health is by making smart food choices. Regardless of your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet. The food you eat can help to decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke. As part of a healthy diet, choose foods that are low in saturated trans-fat and sodium, and limit your calories by filling up on high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A healthy diet includes limiting sodas and eating fewer fatty meals. Add more fish, nuts, and lean protein to your daily diet. Click to download this heart-healthy food chart.


Be Physically Active

Although it’s often easier to be and stay active if you start at a young age, getting physically active is possible at any age. Try to aim for a goal of 30-60 minutes of regular, cardio exercise for 4-5 days a week. Simple activities, such as walking, biking, or jogging are excellent forms of exercise for men’s heart health. The goal is to additionally include two days a week for muscle-strengthening activities that will work on all the major muscle groups (back, legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abdomen, and arms).

running, exercise, self care

Photo by sporlab on Unsplash


Have Regular Wellness Exams

One of the most important things you can do for your heart as well as your overall general health is finding a doctor and have regular wellness examinations. It is essential to talk to your physician about your eating habits, lifestyle habits, and checking your heart rate, blood pressure, and body mass index. The earlier you know where you stand with your numbers, the easier it makes it to identify any possible changes in the future. Surepoint Family Medicine can help keep you healthy with regular checkups and treatment

Other Underlying Conditions

Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including:

  • Cancer treatment
  • Bone marrow or organ transplantation
  • Poorly controlled HIV or AIDS
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications
  • Severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)
  • Chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • Liver disease

Some Autoimmune Disorders that can weaken your immune system are:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis. …
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (Lupus).
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease(IBD).
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
  • Type 1 Diabetes – Mellitus.
  • Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy.

These disorders can make it difficult to combat invading viruses such as COVID-19 among others. Extra precaution should be taken if you or a loved one have an Autoimmune Disorder. Wearing masks and washing hands often will help build a barrier between you and these deadline viruses. For more information on Autoimmune Disorders, go to WebMD.

It’s important to keep yourself healthy and to control your chronic conditions, especially now, as COVID-19 is mostly praying on the weak and vulnerable. Routine doctor visits and keeping up with medications will help to keep you safe from this ever-changing world of new health dangers. If you are feeling any chest pain, discomfort, or illness, visit your nearest ER. Your health is your most precious gift, so please take care of it!

Surepoint Emergency Center is a modern emergency medical facility open 24/7/365. As an alternative to the traditional hospital ER experience, we offer convenience and minimal wait time, along with highly-trained emergency medical staff and state-of-the-art equipment.

Our top priority is bringing high-quality emergency care, quickly and easily to your family. We are committed to making patients feel better faster in a comforting and compassionate environment.

Fast convenient care in your neighborhood.