The COVID-19 Risk Factor You Might Be Missing

Doc's note: Everyday, we hear about new risk factors surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, Dave Lashmet details a risk factor most folks are ignoring and who's most in danger...

Seat belts can't prevent tragedies, but they can limit them...

They're a reasonable precaution for reducing risks if an accident occurs. For example, we wear seat belts on planes today in case of sudden turbulence.

This month, we're looking at cutting physical risks... but not in planes. We're looking at cutting risks from COVID-19.

So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to roughly 6 million U.S. infections, with a 2.5% case fatality rate. The contagion reaches across friends and family, spreading at an alarming pace.

But there is one precaution you can take to protect yourself from the risks of COVID-19. It's like a seat belt against hospitalization and death from this virus, and it goes well beyond masks and social distancing...

Instead, it's a chance to cut your physical risk – not of infection itself, but of the severity of the disease if you get sick. And as I'll share today and tomorrow, it's something investors should be paying attention to right now.

This story comes down to one risk factor you might not have heard much about...

Most of us know by now that COVID-19 targets older people.

For folks under the age of 20, we expect there will be around 200 deaths in the U.S. this year. That's roughly the same death toll as the flu. But this only holds true for the 82 million Americans under 20.

For everyone else, COVID-19 is at least 50 times more deadly than the flu.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") recently summarized the first 1.3 million U.S. cases of COVID-19. Of those cases, there were 72,000 deaths.

For 40 year olds, the CDC found a 1% risk of death from COVID-19. For 50 year olds, the risk is 2%. For 60 year olds, it's 7%. For 70 year olds, it's 17%. And for the 80-plus bracket, there's a 32% risk of death.

It's easy to see that the older you are, the more at risk you are. But to make it through this crisis, we need to get a handle on the other risk factors as well.

So far, less than 2% of the U.S. population has gotten COVID-19... and nearly 180,000 people are dead.

But potentially – without public health measures like wearing masks – there could be 12 million more COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. That's the kind of tragedy we could still see in Brazil, India, and Russia.

This is the course we were on before the U.S. lockdowns. When the pandemic first took hold in the U.S., cases were growing 33% per day. That means a three-day doubling time. So after 30 days with no public health measures, there could be 1,000 cases... and after 60 days, there could be 1 million cases. At 90 days, there could be 1 billion cases... That's more than three times the U.S. population.

Besides leveling the country, it would cripple our ability to treat anyone medically. There would be no hospital beds, no intensive care units, and no respirators... whether you had COVID-19 or were in a car crash.

Shutting down the economy was a last-ditch effort to stop the spread of the virus and preserve our medical safety net. But now that states are reopening, we all need to take precautions to stay safe.

By the simplest metric, we now know that COVID-19 can be transmitted as an aerosol – which means it moves like cigarette smoke. This should make it clear that one way to protect yourself from it is by filtering the air you breathe with masks.

Masks substantially lower your risk of infection by filtering what you inhale and exhale. The simplest mask – like a bandanna – might only help protect other people, but it still reduces community spread, which means it reduces everyone's risk.

Don't get me wrong – everyone hates wearing masks. But everyone hates seat belts, too. So why do we wear them? Because it's a precaution against a much more severe tragedy.

Another precaution you can take against COVID-19 – one that hasn't gotten as much attention – is weight loss...

This doesn't reduce your risk of infection like masks can. Instead, it reduces the impact of the disease if you do get infected.

You see, like age, obesity puts you at greater risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. The only other clear risk factor is chronic lung disease – which happens in half of all smokers.

According to the CDC, having one of these two conditions increases your risk of hospitalization and your risk of death from COVID-19 by a factor of 4.

This 400% increased risk is for folks between the ages of 40 and 69. In other words, risk is not just tied to age... It's also tied to lifestyle. So the sooner you can reverse unhealthy living, the better it is for you.

There are 34 million U.S. adult smokers – or 14% of American adults. It's clear that stopping smoking will reduce your risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. Six studies that reviewed smoking and COVID-19 all concluded that people should quit.

Obesity is more insidious than smoking because it's less obvious and more common.

The CDC reports 40% of American adults are obese. That's about 100 million people. Roughly a quarter of them have a body mass index ("BMI") over 35. That's 25 million folks.

Losing weight makes sense. But now we know weight loss could reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 by a factor of 4 at any age.

Good investing,

David Lashmet

Editor's note: In some states, obesity cases have doubled in the last decade alone. Fortunately, the first drugs have emerged to stop this dangerous condition in its tracks. The most powerful of them all is made by one small drug company... And Dave says this discovery could drive the stock up 2,000% in the coming years. Get the details here.