Metabolic syndrome can triple COVID-19 death risk

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In a new study, researchers found people hospitalized with COVID-19 who had a combination of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes were over three times more likely to die from the disease.

They say that together, obesity, diabetes and pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictive of higher incidents of death in these patients.

The underlying inflammation that is seen with metabolic syndrome may be the driver that is leading to these more severe cases.

The more of these diagnoses that you have, the worse the outcomes.

The study is the first to look at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

The research was conducted by a team at the Tulane University School of Medicine.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions—high blood pressure, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol—that increases the risk for heart disease.

In the study, the team followed outcomes for 287 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 from March 30 to April 5, which was at the peak of the pandemic in New Orleans.

More than 85% of patients in the study identified as non-Hispanic Black. The mean age was 61 years old and almost 57% were women.

The most common conditions were high blood pressure (80%), obesity (65%), diabetes (54%), and low HDL (39%).

The researchers looked at two groups—those diagnosed with metabolic syndrome and those who weren’t.

They tracked outcomes including if patients were admitted to an intensive care unit, placed on a ventilator, developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), or died from the disease.

Almost 66% of the patients in the study had metabolic syndrome. When these cases were compared with patients without the condition, 56% vs. 24% required the ICU, 48% vs. 18% required a ventilator, 37% vs. 11% developed ARDS, and 26% vs. 10% died.

Importantly, the patients with metabolic syndrome were 3.4 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who didn’t have the condition.

These patients were also nearly five times more likely to be admitted to an ICU, need a ventilator, or develop ARDS.

The study didn’t find an increase in mortality for patients when only one of the conditions clustered with metabolic syndrome was examined alone.

However, being obese or having diabetes was associated with increased odds of ICU admission and being put on a ventilator.

The team says metabolic syndrome should be considered a composite predictor of COVID-19 lethal outcome, increasing the odds of mortality by the combined effects of its individual components.

One author of the study is Joshua Denson, an assistant professor of medicine and pulmonary and critical care medicine physician.

The study is published in Diabetes Care.

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