These two things may increase COVID death risk in older people

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In a new study from Karolinska Institutet, researchers found that low BMI and malnutrition are risk factors for in-hospital mortality in geriatric COVID-19 patients.

These results are important as information on the groups with the highest mortality, i.e. the very old and frail patients, is underrepresented.

For example, obesity is a risk factor in COVID-19 infection in younger adults but the team instead found that low BMI and malnutrition increased the risk of in-hospital mortality in older COVID-19 patients who were mostly older than 75 years.

During the first COVID-19 wave in spring 2020 in Sweden, researchers reported that in-hospital mortality was 24% among older patients.

The risk of death was almost doubled for patients classified as frail according to the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) as compared to non-frail older patients.

In these patients, acute kidney injury and multimorbidity were also strong risk factors for death.

In the study,  the team analyzed the associations of body mass index, and nutritional status assessed in older patients treated for COVID-19.

Data in the analysis comprised medical records of ~10 000 patients in Stockholm during the first two pandemic waves. Age range of the patients was from 65 to 105 years.

The team found that undernutrition; i.e., underweight (BMI<18.5) and low nutrition scores were related to short-term mortality in the COVID-19 patients.

No evidence was found that obesity is a risk factor in COVID-19 infection in older patients.

The finding is a reminder that nutritional status is vital to examine and to treat in older patients. This study offers evidence-based guidance for clinical work with these patients.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about long COVID more likely in these people and findings of vitamin D and COVID-19: What you need to know.

For more information about COVID and your health, please see recent studies about scientists find existing drugs that can kill COVID-19 virus and results showing that this common heartburn drug may help treat COVID-19, reduce the severity.

The study is published in Clinical Nutrition. One author of the study is Ph.D. Laura Kananen.

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