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How senior citizens can protect themselves from COVID-19

Research shows death rate from COVID-19 nearly 8% for those 80 and older

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(Cleveland Clinic News Service)

Every day, experts are learning more and more about COVID-19 and who is most at risk for serious complications.

According to Ronan Factora, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, the virus has been especially dangerous to senior citizens.

“This is probably due to a combination of an aging change in the immune system, where a person’s not able to combat that infection quite as well as a younger person, and the accumulation of medical problems that a person may have,” he said.

A recent study shows that the older a person is, the higher their risk of death from COVID-19.

The research, published in The Lancet, said while the overall death rate from COVID-19 is 1.38% overall, it is nearly 8% for those 80 and older.

Factora said elderly individuals need to be especially mindful of who they’re in contact with. He suggests adhering to the recommendations of health officials, which include social distancing, staying at home when possible and maintaining good hand hygiene.

“Use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands with soap and water frequently,” said Factora. “When you’re in public places, just be mindful of contact with areas that a lot of people touch, and avoid that transfer from your hand to your face.”

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Factora said experts know that the transmission of COVID-19 is very rapid. An elderly person who contracts the virus could land in the hospital very quickly, which is why it’s vital to keep up health healthy habits. He said it’s especially important for senior citizens to maintain a good diet and exercise routine, and to keep chronic medical problems in check.

“The one thing that you want to keep in mind, throughout all this, is that you should not ignore your overall health,” said Factora. “Aside from COVID-19, people who are older still have a number of health problems that still require surveillance and management, and there will be times when those also flare up, so they should still seek medical care when it’s important.”

For those who are able, Factora advises taking advantage of phone or virtual medical appointments to minimize exposure to public places.