As the pandemic disrupts life around the globe, new information continues to emerge. While no one is immune to COVID-19, it is becoming more clear that some people are more susceptible to complications than others.

Here are some of the most common risk factors for COVID-19 complications and some ways to lower your risk.

Diabetes and heart disease

According to the CDC, the vast majority (up to 80%) of all people put into intensive care for COVID-19 in the US have had an underlying condition like diabetes or heart disease.

Because the risk is so high, the best thing for people with these conditions to do is to limit contact with the outside world as much as possible. Get groceries delivered, wear masks if you must go outside, and wash your hands frequently.

While it is important to continue taking your prescription medicines, it may be a good time to consult with your doctor about dosage, supply, and which over-the-counter and home remedies may interfere with your medicine’s effectiveness.

Age

With increasing age comes increased vulnerability to death from COVID-19. The CDC’s latest numbers show that fatality was highest in people aged 85 or older, with a death rate of up to 27%, followed by 3% – 11% among people aged 65–84 years.

Why are older people more at risk? The most likely reasons are that immune function decreases with age, and elderly people are more likely to have other underlying risk factors.

Those in the highest age risk groups are safest staying home and maintaining a good diet and exercise plan to keep their immune systems as strong as possible.

COPD

21% of COVID fatalities have been from people who suffer from chronic lung disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a group of diseases that cause airflow blockage and breathing-related problems.

People with COPD have less air flowing through their airways and may have a nagging cough or trouble breathing. Most cases of COPD are a direct result of cigarette smoking.

Not only are cigarette smokers at increased risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, but they’ve also been found to have higher expression of the ACE2 receptor (where COVID-19 enters the cells), making them even more vulnerable to COVID infection and complications.

The good news is that it is never too late to quit. Former smokers had similar levels of ACE-2 to people who’ve never smoked.

With the pandemic looming over us, it is crucial to keep your immune system as strong as possible. There has never been a better time to quit smoking.

People living in areas with poor air quality

During the SARS coronavirus outbreak in 2003, scientists found that infected people who lived in areas with poor air quality had double the mortality rate of those in less polluted areas.

“Given what we know now, it is very likely that people who are exposed to more air pollution and who are smoking tobacco products are going to fare worse if infected with [Covid-19] than those who are breathing cleaner air, and who don’t smoke,” Aaron Bernstein, at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health told the Washington Post.

If you live in an area with poor air quality, it’s a good time to make sure that your indoor air is free of pollutants to keep your lungs at peak performance and your immune system strong.