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How Your Weight Affects Your COVID-19 Risk

As you probably already know, some people are thought to be at greater risk from the coronavirus. Older people and those with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or asthma are known to be more vulnerable to the disease and have been urged to take extra care.

People most severely affected by COVID-19 end up in the intensive care unit (ICU). Yes, age and pre-existing conditions certainly play a part in that. But there’s another factor that unites the vast majority of COVID-19 patients in ICU. It’s their weight.

More Likely to Need Intensive Care

The UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre released a report on 19 March. They found that approx. 70% of coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) in the UK were overweight or obese.

Interestingly, the numbers were spread fairly evenly across these categories. Of the patients studied, 31.6% were overweight (BMI 25-29) and 32.8% were obese (BMI 30-35).

Put another way, if you’re overweight or obese and you develop COVID-19, you are much more likely to be in the category of patients who develop breathing difficulties and need to be treated in ICU.

Why is that?

Why Being Overweight Makes You More Susceptible to COVID-19

When you get beyond a healthy weight, your body is always dealing with the impact of those extra kilos. It takes more effort just to function, and that can weaken your system overall.

There are three main ways that being overweight or obese may make you more susceptible to COVID-19.

1. Weakening Your Immune System

Obesity can put your body in a state of chronic inflammation that weakens your immune system. That’s not good news when you’re trying to protect yourself from a highly contagious disease.

2. Placing Extra Stress on Your Lungs

Being overweight or obese disrupts normal breathing. There is extra fat inside your body that makes your breathing muscles weaker and squashes your lungs, meaning they can’t hold as much air.

If you’re heavier than you should be, you’ve probably noticed times when it’s harder to breathe. Huffing and puffing when you’re walking or snoring while you’re sleeping are just some of the examples of how your weight makes your lungs work harder.

Patients admitted to ICU due to COVID-19 complications are there because they need help to breathe. It’s perhaps not surprising that overweight or obese people account for most of these patients in the UK. If your lungs are already struggling due to your weight, then they are less able to cope with additional pressures like the coronavirus.

3 Increasing Your Risk of Other Illnesses

As you probably already know, being overweight or obese puts you at higher risk of many other health conditions, including diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular problems.

If you’re overweight or obese and living with a chronic condition, you’re now in two high-risk categories for COVID-19.

What Can You Do?

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to improve your health and strengthen your immune system while observing social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

We recommend that you:

  1. Go for a daily walk in your local streets or green spaces. This beneficial exercise can help to reduce blood pressure, control blood sugar levels, ward off heart disease and combat stress and anxiety. And that time outdoors is all the more precious when you’re spending the rest of your day at home.

  2. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies can boost your immune function because they contain vital nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E.

  3. Eat less fat. Most of your immune system lives in your gut and a high-fat diet can weaken the gut microbes that help your immunity.

  4. If you’re buying packaged foods, read the label carefully.

  5. If you smoke, stop. Get whatever help you need to do so.

  6. If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.

  7. Try to avoid infections by washing your hands regularly and by cooking food thoroughly

  8. Consider getting this season’s flu jab. It won’t protect you from COVID-19 but it will help prevent influenza, which is a severe respiratory disease that can weaken your system.

  9. Sleep well. It’s nature’s great restorer.

  10. Get help to lose weight. (That’s where we come in.)

How Can We Help?

We can help you use this time to lose weight and reduce your risk of a bad outcome from COVID-19.

During normal times, we offer weight-loss surgerieswhich have assisted many people to live a lighter, healthier life.

There’s always a process involved in that – we never rush straight into an operating theatre. We meet you, learn about you, and enrol you in a pre-surgery weight-loss program that includes peer support. Apart from the surgery, we can do all of that during the lockdown period.

This is a great time to get into healthier habits. Get started now with a free online consultation with our nurse, Shirley Lockie. .


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