BILLINGS - Over the weekend, seven residents died from COVID-19 in Yellowstone County and each had prior underlying health conditions.

We sat down with a local physician to learn more about those conditions and how they can turn deadly when combined with COVID-19.

Dr. Brad Fuller, owner of Fuller Family Medicine, tells us there is a variety of underlying health conditions many of us walk around with and don't even know about.

"It could be body weight, it could be high blood pressure, it could be an underlying lung condition, or chronic kidney disease, things that people can walk around with and not even feel poorly, but only caught on routine testing or regular checkups," Dr. Fuller said.

According to Dr. Fuller, underlying health conditions are more common than we realize, but he did mention some are more severe than others. Most people with a high risk of heart disease or COPD would likely be aware COVID can impact them worse than others.

But, Dr. Fuller says conditions like high blood pressure and obesity, which are very common in our country according to the doctor, can lead to serious health conditions.

Even habits like smoking or consuming too much alcohol, while they may not be risk factors for COVID, can also potentially cause strokes, heart disease and even heart attacks, which then contribute to severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Fuller says if you aren't sure if you have any underlying health conditions you should speak to your health care provider.

"It's important to get regular check ups just to identify chronic conditions that we can treat and at least give you a clean bill of health. And heaven forbid you do get COVID-19, we already know things about you that might help get us a better treatment for you that can help get rid of the virus or get rid of the symptoms a lot quicker had you just come in here fresh off the street and we don't know much about you or your medical history," he said.

Dr. Fuller went on to say if you trust your doctor with your health, to please listen to them when they say the safest and most effective way to get through the pandemic is to get vaccinated.

"Wearing a seatbelt doesn't guarantee protection but it will reduce the damage done to you, heaven forbid you're in a car accident, just like a vaccine will. Vaccines aren't perfect, no medicine is perfect, no test or surgery is perfect, but the end goal is much better than without the medicine, the vaccine, the surgery," he said.

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