Obesity and Covid: Connecting the Two

Three months ago, the phrase “new normal” didn’t exist. And then the corona pandemic hit. As we have settled into our new reality of working via Zoom and wearing face masks and gloves to the grocery store, we have also discovered a great deal about this virus in a relatively short time. The medical community has provided endless data reports dissecting patient demographics. Everything from age, gender, income level to pre-existing conditions has been documented. It may not come as a surprise that people with diabetes and high blood pressure are at higher risk for contracting coronavirus and suffering from a more severe case, and even worse, fatality.

However, there is another factor in the demographic polls that continues to climb: obesity.

According to the World Obesity Federation, a high weight will correlate with the population who contracts COVID-19. With over 40% of Americans being severely overweight or obese, this is a significant issue which needs to be addressed. According to the New York Times, the COVID-19 does not discriminate – it affects people all of all ages struggling with obesity.

It is critical to raise awareness to the situation, understand this phenomenon, and offer solutions to the community.

Why are those struggling with obesity more susceptible to contracting viruses? Since obese patients are more likely to have restrictive lung diseases such as sleep apnea and asthma, they have less air that is stored in the lungs. Excessive weight also causes chronic inflammation throughout the body which lowers its ability to fight viral respiratory infection. This is caused by white blood cells emitting a protein called cytokines. In a person who is obese, instead of the cytokines only being emitted when a virus is attacking the body, they are emitted continuously. The body’s immune system is then always on high alert, which in turn weakens it.

Not only does excess weight pose as being a threat to contracting the virus, it also makes treatment more difficult. Even before the threat of COVID-19, health systems have not been properly equipped to treat patients with obesity. This current crisis is only exacerbating the issue.

It is more difficult to treat people who are obese for three main reasons:

    1. They have excess fatty tissue that makes ventilators more dangerous than helpful to use.
    2. The World Obesity Foundation explains that obtaining diagnostic imaging is more difficult because there are weight limits on these machines.
    3. Those who carry significant excess weight are more difficult to transport in a time of crisis.

How can you improve this situation?

You may be suffering from obesity and don’t have the ability to undergo a weight loss procedure such as the sleeve gastrectomy. You may have a BMI between 25-30 which shows you are overweight. In either situation, there are preventative measures you can take to reduce your chances of contracting Covid-19 and suffering from a severe case.

  1. Go to the farmers market (if possible): Not only will you be supporting the local economy, you will be buying whole, unprocessed foods filled with nutrients and vitamins your body needs to fight off infection.
  2. Skip the snack aisle: If you have it in the house, you will eat it. With so much free time, it is easy to eat throughout the day, which adds up to a lot of extra calories that turn into pounds. Get the Chips Ahoy cookies out of the shopping cart. Replace with chopped veggies.
  3. Go for walks: Although gyms and fitness centers are closed, you can take advantage of California weather and go for walks in your neighborhood. Bonus: you’re still practicing social distancing, getting some Vitamin D which will help improve your mood, and burning extra calories.
  4. Your living room = your new gym: Instagram, Youtube, and gyms all have free workout classes that you can do from your living room. Slide the coffee table over and get lunging.
  5. Meditate: With apps like Calm or Headspace that have free programs, meditating has never been easier. Meditation helps reduce stress, which can help prevent overeating or binge-eating.

While elective procedures are currently on hold in the state of California, you can take the first step to changing your life. Contact our office to schedule a consultation: 408-358-1855