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Why Coronavirus Is so Dangerous for Elderly With Underlying Conditions?

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on March 19th, 2020

As we learn more about COVID-19, it's getting clearer that the risk of developing a serious infection from the coronavirus increases with age. People over the age of 65 years many of whom have chronic underlying conditions are the most vulnerable to a severe form of infection.

Approximately 47 million seniors live in the United States, and while only about 4% of them reside in assisted care facilities, that still factors out to more than 1.7 million already at-risk people living in communities in which disease can spread quickly.

Data from China - the worst affected country by the novel coronavirus - on the first 44,000 patients with the virus shows that the death rate in those aged 80 and over is nearly 15 percent and 8 percent among those aged 70 to 79.

Why COVID-19 Infections Are Worse for Older Patients?

The greater risk for serious infection or even death from Covid-19 is among older people, particularly those with underlying health conditions.

People with asbestos-related health problems have usually been exposed to high levels of asbestos for extended periods of time. Most of them were exposed through their occupation. Not rarely, old persons heavily exposed to asbestos many years ago developed chronic conditions caused by inflammation or scarring of the lungs. An excessive amount of scar tissue can potentially lead to the development of restrictive lung diseases.

Malignant and benign disorders associated with exposure to asbestos fibers usually occur decades after the initial exposure. Benign asbestos-related diseases include:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded that asbestos is a proven human carcinogen. A wide variety of malignancies have been associated with asbestos, although the strongest evidence for a causal association is confined to lung cancer and mesothelioma - pleural and peritoneal. Asbestos fibers can also migrate downward through the diaphragms into the abdominal cavity. If ingested, asbestos fibers can locate in different parts of the gastrointestinal tract, in colonic tissue specifically. The link between asbestos exposure and gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer is validated through epidemiological researches and studies. Asbestos fibers make their way into the kidneys causing scarring and therefore cancer.

Older People Don't Have a Strong Immune System so They Are More Vulnerable to Infectious Disease

Being diagnosed with a chronic condition only partially explains the high death rate from coronavirus in older people. Researchers found that when the elderly get an infection, any respiratory infection - but particularly this new coronavirus - probably because their immune systems simply do not have the same ability to fight viruses and bacteria - they are going to have the worst effects of the disease.

As we age, our immune system weakens. A diminished immune system makes us more vulnerable to infection of all types, and any sort of challenge to the body can do more damage. T- cells, part of the immune system, are essential for defending hosts against microorganisms as well as for regulating the development of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases like autoimmunity. Multiple defects in the T-cell comportment that occur during aging, lead to a gradual deterioration of the immune system, making it harder for our body to fight off diseases and infection.

If Your Medical Condition Worsens You Should Call Your Healthcare Provider

Millions of Americans, alongside worrying about an unfamiliar and fast-moving pandemic, are also wondering how to care for and connect with parents, and grandparents who are being told to isolate - a condition most of us, usually, desperately try to avoid.

Older people who take medication to manage chronic conditions should ensure they have enough medication on hand, as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. continues to rise. The government urged that groups particularly vulnerable to Covid-19 including those over the age of 65 and those with underlying issues to stay home.

Among other new recommendations:

  • Stay sanitized
  • Limit your visitors
  • Communicate with providers and those close to you
  • Keep abreast of essential, up-to-date information
  • Healthcare centers should be contacted if symptoms of infection are noticed

How to Care for Your Elderly Loved Ones Without Putting Them at Risk of Coronavirus

It is essential that caregivers should practice extra precautions themselves and the family should have a backup plan to care for their loved one in case the caregiver gets sick. Planning also helps reduce unnecessary panic and anxiety, so communicate a care plan among family members.

There should also be enough supplies - food and medication - in the house that can last for at least one week. You can also mail-order the medication and use grocery delivery services, as ways to further protect the older adults in the family.

Social engagement improves physical health and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, this is a time where we need to practice social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19. You can stay in touch with the people close to you making telephone calls more frequently. Don't forget, there's video conferencing available to use and sharing of photographs through social media, so you can stay in touch and not feel disconnected.

Every Veteran Is Valuable and Deserves Our Gratitude and Support

People who served in the U.S military between 1940 and 1980 have a heightened risk of developing health problems due to asbestos exposure. So far, thousands of veterans have been diagnosed with asbestos-related illnesses and those numbers are expected to rise due to the long latency period which means the effects of long-time exposure to asbestos don't show up until 10 to 40 years after the initial exposure. If you are seeking veterans' disability benefits we will be by your side during the process.