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Health and Fitness News

Your Waistline and COVID

The connection between obesity and a severe COVID infection.

You’ve known for a long time that weight loss should be your priority, but life has kept you too busy to commit to the process. If the health of your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and joints wasn’t enough to motivate you to eat right and exercise, then maybe the increased risk of a severe, life-threatening virus like COVID-19 will do the trick.

The new coronavirus is mainly a respiratory illness affecting the lungs, so those with lung conditions are more likely to develop severe symptoms. But the high risk category also includes people who are over age 65 or have heart disease, diabetes, cancer, blood disorders, liver or kidney disease, a weak immune system, or are overweight.

Across the globe, an estimated 10 percent of people are considered obese, a term to define those whose body mass index is 30 or greater. Are you one of them? If so, here are a few ways obesity could land you in the ICU and why you need to get serious about the future of your health.

Breathing Difficulties

Being infected with COVID-19 can cause damage to the lungs. In some cases, pneumonia develops. When this happens, the lungs may become filled with fluid and inflamed, leading to shortness of breath and a cough. Eventually, acute respiratory distress syndrome may set in, causing even more trouble breathing and the need for ventilation.

Even without COVID, overweight people often have difficulty breathing, becoming short of breath with mild exertion. Pile on a respiratory infection, and breathing only becomes worse. As you would expect, severe infection can really take its toll on an obese person’s ability to breathe.

Because of this, it’s not surprising that studies find it takes obese people much longer to recover from a serious COVID-19 infection. This could mean long-term or lasting damage to lung tissue.

Care Challenges

Obesity poses unique healthcare challenges. It can be more difficult to intubate obese COVID patients on a ventilator compared to their lean peers. Because of the limited size of testing machines, it can be tricky to get accurate imaging during diagnostic tests, slowing down the diagnostic process and postponing treatment. Additionally, healthcare staff have more trouble positioning and transporting obese patients, which slows down every aspect of care.

Linked to Other Risks

Even though obesity itself increases your chances for being hospitalized with COVID, someone who is obese is more likely to have other risk factors for a severe infection, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, increased inflammation, and sleep apnea. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing serious symptoms.

The Nature of Fat Cells

Fat cells produce and regulate hormones that may play a role in the spread of the virus in the body and the ability of the immune system to effectively overcome the virus. Adipose tissue (fat) fuels mechanisms that are magnets for the COVID-19 virus and replication of the virus. Because of this, the virus invades overweight bodies faster and more efficiently. And the more fat cells you have, the harder it may be for your body to fight the virus off.

Fat cells also make proteins known to trigger uncontrollable blood clotting, a dangerous risk in severe COVID patients. Blood clots can lead to blockages, which may cause lung damage, heart attacks, strokes, and death.

So if you want to arm yourself with the best COVID defense, work with your trainer and physician to obtain and maintain an optimal weight. Your good health depends on it.