COVID-19 Roundup: Risks Higher in Patients with Diabetes, High BMI; Exercise vs. Coronavirus; and Virus Spread in U.S. Started in January, CDC Now Says

Diabetes, High BMI and Older Age Put COVID-19 Patients at Higher Risk of Death, New Study Finds

Complications from diabetes, combined with older age and a high BMI (body mass index), were linked to a higher risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to a new study that looked at coronavirus cases in France.

Researchers examined data on more than 1,300 COVID-19 patients with diabetes at 53 hospitals. The average age was 70, and they were all hospitalized in France during March. Of the 1,300, 89 percent had type 2 diabetes, while the rest had other types of diabetes.

In addition to diabetes, patients with a higher body mass index (BMI), an estimate of body fat based on weight and height, were also more likely to require a ventilator. A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is considered the “normal” range for weight, while a calculation between 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A 30 BMI or higher is considered “obese.”

The study concludes: “In people with diabetes hospitalized for COVID-19, BMI — but not long-term glucose control — was positively and independently associated with tracheal intubation and/or death within 7 days.”

The authors of the study, published in the journal Diabetologia, said that 1 in 5 patients required a ventilator in intensive care within one week of being admitted into the hospital; 1 in 10 had died; and 18 percent had been discharged.

The study is the first to analyze how COVID-19 affects patients with diabetes.

Researchers said that nearly half of the patients developed complications involving the eyes, kidneys or nerves (microvascular), and 41 percent had complications linked to the heart, brain and legs. Any of these additional complications more than doubled a patient’s risk of death after a week of hospitalization, the study concluded.

Can Exercise Help Protect You Against a Serious Complication from COVID-19? Possibly, New Research Says

Previous studies have found that the antioxidant extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD) — which the body produces when exercising — can help protect against heart and lung diseases.

Now, new research suggests that exercising may help prevent or lessen the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a condition that results in the lungs becoming inflamed with fluid buildup and oxygen deprivation. ARDS is one of the complications that people with COVID-19 can develop, and it is associated w ith a higher death rate from the coronavirus. The new research was published in the journal Redox Biology.

Zhen Yan, Ph.D., professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, reviewed existing medical research, that focused on the antioxidant, EcSOD. This potent antioxidant attacks harmful free radicals in the body, protecting tissues and helping to prevent disease, Dr. Yan states. Muscles naturally make EcSOD, secreting it into the circulation, but its production is made possible by cardiovascular exercise.

“We often say that exercise is medicine,” states Dr. Yan, who is also the director of the Center for Skeletal Muscle Research at UVA’s Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “EcSOD set a perfect example that we can learn from the biological process of exercise to advance medicine. While we strive to learn more about the mysteries about the superb benefits of regular exercise, we do not have to wait until we know everything.”

Research done before the COVID-19 pandemic indicates that up to 45 percent of patients who develop severe ARDS will die.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), large-scale studies of more than 40,000 people in China who had COVID-19 found that 3 to 17 percent developed ARDS, and that between 20 and 42 percent of all hospitalized patients developed the complication. About 68 to 85 percent of all ICU (Intenstive Care Unit) patients in China developed ARDS.

COVID-19 Started to Spread in the U.S. as Early as January, CDC says

The coronavirus, COVID-19, began spreading from person to person within the U.S. as early as late January, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says in a new report. That’s a full month before community spread was officially first detected in the U.S.

Until now, the first nontravel–related U.S. case was confirmed on February 26 in a California resident who had become ill on February 13.

The CDC states that an “analysis of viral RNA sequences from early cases suggested that a single lineage of virus imported directly or indirectly from China began circulating in the United States between January 18 and February 9, followed by several (COVID-19) importations from Europe.” RNA sequencing is a technique that can examine the quantity and sequences of RNA, large biomolecules in living cells, in a sample.

The CDC traced the early spread by examining emergency department records, tests of patients’ respiratory specimens, and analyses of the virus’s genetic sequences from early cases.

“As America begins to reopen, looking back at how COVID-19 made its way to the United States will contribute to a better understanding to prepare for the future,” Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the CDC, told reporters last week, following the release of the CDC report.

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