How 64% of U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations could have been avoided

A significant number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States can be attributed to the patient having a cardiometabolic conditions, according to a new modeling study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The analysis focused on four preexisting conditions associated with a heightened risk of COVID-19 hospitalization: obesity, hypertension, diabetes and heart failure. If many COVID-19 patients had better cardiometabolic health, the study’s authors wrote, their infection may have not required hospitalization at all.

Using national data and numerous prediction models, the team evaluated the more than 900,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations that had occurred in the United States as of Nov. 18, 2020. Overall, they determined that 64% of those hospitalizations could have potentially been prevented.

Diabetes was responsible for a higher percentage of hospitalizations among patients over the age of 65. Obesity, meanwhile, had a fairly equal impact across all age groups included in the study.

“While newly authorized COVID-19 vaccines will eventually reduce infections, we have a long way to go to get to that point,” cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston and lead author of the analysis, said in a prepared statement. “Our findings call for interventions to determine whether improving cardiometabolic health will reduce hospitalizations, morbidity, and health care strains from COVID-19. We know that changes in diet quality alone, even without weight loss, rapidly improve metabolic health within just six to eight weeks. It’s crucial to test such lifestyle approaches for reducing severe COVID-19 infections, both for this pandemic and future pandemics likely to come.”

“Medical providers should educate patients who may be at risk for severe COVID-19 and consider promoting preventive lifestyle measures, such as improved dietary quality and physical activity, to improve overall cardiometabolic health,” first author Meghan O’Hearn, a doctoral candidate at Tufts University, said in the same statement. “It’s also important for providers to be aware of the health disparities people with these conditions often face.”

Click here for the full study.