NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A year into the pandemic, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 3,877 New Mexicans, and nearly 190,000 people have contracted the virus. Most people who’ve died from COVID had what health officials call “underlying conditions.” So what are those underlying conditions, and how can people keep themselves healthy moving forward?

“Underlying conditions are very important related to the risk of getting COVID,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the New Mexico Human Services Department. Looking back at a year’s worth of data, health officials now know a lot more about COVID-19, including who is most at-risk for complications and death. “Here in New Mexico, the number one condition which we see pretty much worldwide is high blood pressure – common in the population, but it is a vascular condition, and we know COVID-19 attacks the blood vessels in the body,” Dr. Scrase explained.

A state epidemiology report on COVID-19 mortality published this week shows hypertension or high blood pressure is the top-listed underlying condition among COVID deaths. The second most common underlying condition is diabetes.

Data from a state COVID-19 mortality report published March 15, 2021

Next on the list is cardiovascular, chronic lung, and chronic kidney disease. “Obesity is number six on the list, but still a risk factor,” said Dr. Scrase.

Data shows COVID-related death counts peaked in New Mexico in December, and have gone way down since the vaccine entered the picture. Department of Health data shows daily COVID case counts have gone down statewide as well.

“One thing we know about the vaccine is that it does reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths substantially,” said Dr. Scrase. “We hope that the vaccine will keep those case counts down because people are out and about more, things are more open.”

Through gym closures and shutdowns, Dr. Scrase said some people may have dropped their workout routines, or delayed regular doctor appointments. “You know, this is a yearlong struggle between the virus and humanity,” he said.

And while there are health conditions outside of our control, he said there are things people can do to keep themselves healthy moving forward. “It’s those sort of things you say, ‘I really should be eating healthier, I really need to get more exercise.’ Paying attention to that little voice because that’s the part of you that wants to take care of you, and wants to keep you safe,” said Dr. Scrase.

Dr. Scrase said about 50% of people who tested positive for COVID have underlying conditions, and 77% of people who die from coronavirus in New Mexico had underlying conditions.

Read the full report below: