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A Weighty Matter

In a recent blog I joked about the COVID-15. You know the extra pounds some of us have packed on since being sequestered at home amid takeout and Netflix.

However, I was alarmed when I read a recent Washington Post article which confirmed that obesity is the number one indicator of having a rough time with COVID, if you contract it. Having a BMI of 30 and over increases your chances of hospitalization 2- 3 times, even if you are under 60. That currently impacts almost 40% of the population.

Further research indicates that even if you are overweight, like 32% of the population in the U.S., you have an increased risk. Now that we have large pools of people to gather data from since the beginning of the pandemic a disturbing pattern is emerging. Analysts are finding that the data links those who are overweight and obese to more hospitalizations than people who are a healthy weight (113% more likely), more stays in the ICU (74% more likely) and 48% more likely to die. Do I have your attention?

There are a number of factors at play here. Primarily, people who are obese oftentimes have other health issues, such as metabolic syndrome, in which blood sugars and fat levels are elevated, along with blood pressure. All of which contribute to heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. Sometimes we call metabolic syndrome (MetS) diabesity, a combination of diabetes and obesity. And this is a deadly combination. It is found that MetS alone increases hospital admissions, including ICU stays and ventilation protocols.

Additionally, people who are obese also experience chronic inflammation, reduced immunity and increase blood clotting, which worsens the Covid-19 occurrence. Obese people often don’t seek medical treatment because of the stigma associated with being so heavy.

However, it is important to know that Body Mass Index (BMI) is a risk factor on its own. And it cuts across all age, sex, and socioeconomic factors. Even though the COVID-19 risks rate peak at a BMI of 35, it begins to rise as soon as person tips over into the overweight category, which many of us do, myself included. Scary stuff.

What happens when overweight/obese meets with SARS-CoV-2? Several things happen, some mechanical, some metabolic. For example, when someone is obese the fat in the abdomen pushes up the diaphragm into the lower lungs, creating a restriction of airflow and increasing the worsening of symptoms. Additionally, obesity increases the risk of blood clots which doesn’t bode well for the lungs, which in severe COVID, get bombarded with small clots. Some doctors think the virus attacks the endothelial cells and changes the signaling, sending a message for more coagulation.

People who are obese also have a weakened immune response because the immune tissue has been replaced by adipose (fat) tissue in the spleen, thymus and bone marrow. And it should be noted that they also have an impaired response to infection, because the cells just are working as efficiently as normal.

Obesity also causes chronic low-grade inflammation, which hampers the body’s natural response to fight the virus.

Then there is the stigma of being so overweight that you are inclined not to seek treatment right away.

There is little data currently as to what to do to mitigate risk, other than the normal precautions of wearing a mask, washing your hands, and being very careful to avoid large gatherings.

However, there is evidence that exercising and losing weight can be beneficial to reduce the severity of COVID-19, by increasing the metabolic health of the individual. Even a small weight loss can be helpful.

As for me, I am scared straight. Even health coaches have their issues. However, I do know the steps to take to get back on track.

I plan to work extremely hard on getting off the extra weight I have put on in the last several months and get out of the overweight range immediately. I will keep you posted on my Instagram and Facebook pages to let you know how I am doing, and what I am doing.

Target goal: 10% reduction in overall body weight.


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