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Obese Individuals Are at Greater Risk for Severe COVID-19 Infection

Jeremy Korman';

By Jeremy Korman

Posted on August 12th, 2020 in Weight Loss

COVID risk for obese patientsThe novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection can trouble anyone, but as new things come up about this disease, it is widely known that certain people develop a severe illness due to this infection compared to the others.

This vulnerable group also includes people who are obese. Obesity has emerged as a risk factor that may increase the chances of getting hospitalized or being admitted to the ICU if COVID-19 hits.

Now, there lies a real concern as it is evident that nearly 42% of the adult population in the United States is considered obese.

Being aware that we need to live with this new virus for some more time ahead, here is a quick look out on what we should know during this COVID-19 era.

Obesity Can Double Your Risk for COVID-19 Associated Respiratory Failure

It is likely that even if you are otherwise healthy, just weighing more than normal can increase your risk of severe COVID-19 illness. For instance, people who are overweight or obese are twice as likely to develop acute respiratory failure due to COVID-19 infection. Also, their chances of needing admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) heightens by four times compared to other people. Therefore, it is clear that a person's weight can be a risk factor for developing severe COVID-19 infection.

In people below the age of 55, obesity or excess fat deposition is the major risk factor for a serious COVID-19 infection. Obesity was never considered abnormal and is quite prevalent. It is important to know and check out whether your weight is elevating your risk for COVID-19 related complications.  

You are considered to be obese if you have more body fat than what is healthy for your height. Here is a quick obesity screening tool that measures your body mass index (BMI). It has been estimated that with a BMI of 30 or more, the risk of developing a severe COVID-19 infection increases by 27%, and with a BMI of 40 or more, the risk doubles.

Certain theories explain why obese people face a higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19. Here are the three hypotheses:

  • The novel coronavirus infection may aggravate the difficulty in breathing that people who are overweight often experience without being aware of it.
  • Being obese can increase the chances of experiencing a fatal immune-related complication of COVID-19 or cytokine storm.
  • By virtue of the molecular properties of the fat cells and the novel coronavirus, having more amount of fat would facilitate the virus to stay longer.

However, irrespective of the reason for a person's risk, it is important to be aware that a severe illness would be harder and takes a longer time for recovery. Additionally, a severe COVID-19 infection could result in long-term lung damage.

An Obese Person Should Take the Following Steps to Safeguard Health

Though everyone needs to be cautious during these times of the COVID-19 pandemic, we recommend and advise the following that are to be followed by obese people:

  • Be vigilant and extra cautious: If you are obese, you need to be more cautious about the preventive measures such as social distancing, proper hand hygiene, and use of cloth masks. While you interact with other people, ensure they are also as safe as yourself.
  • Manage your underlying health conditions well: Obese individuals are likely to have pre-existing health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Ensure all regular medications are taken.
  • Boost and support your immune system: Eating nutritious food, regular exercising, and getting good sleep are some easy steps to building a strong immunes system.
  • Try losing weight: Staying at home can help you eat healthier and wholesome foods. You can limit your portion sizes as well as cut down saturated fats and simple carbohydrates. It is safe to go out for a walk as long as you are maintaining social distance. A 15-minute walk is sufficient to safely begin your weight loss journey amid this pandemic.