August 13, 2020
Obesity and COVID-19: What You Need to Know
The Coronavirus pandemic is hitting the world hard, but those with compromised immune systems and significant risk factors have a higher likelihood of getting the virus. As information emerges about this illness, we are learning more about some of these risk factors, one of which is obesity.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of excess fat on the body, which poses serious health risks and can cause a variety of diseases and problems. Obesity is typically measured by body mass index (BMI). The BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kgs by your height, in meters squared. Any number above 30 is officially obese.
There are a variety of reasons why a person becomes obese. Although obesity is often caused by overeating or eating fatty and sugar-laden foods, other underlying issues could cause a person to become overweight and obese.
Genetics has a lot to do with a person’s physical makeup. If you have family members who are predisposed to obesity, you could just be following their genetic footsteps. Some chronic conditions and diseases can also result in obesity, specifically hypothyroidism.
What Is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism refers to an underactive thyroid that does not produce adequate amounts of specific hormones that regulate the body, including how you gain and lose weight. In addition to weight gain, hypothyroidism symptoms include feeling extra fatigued and drained of energy, which makes it hard to feel the urge to exercise. Hypothyroidism can also result in depression, which may trigger emotional overeating.
How Does Obesity Contribute to COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a worldwide health crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of people. You have likely heard that the virus impacts the elderly and those with immunocompromised systems. But it can have a severe impact on those with obesity, as stated in the below graph by McKinsey & Company.
“In fact, obesity is the number one risk factor for developing a severe case of COVID-19 in people under the age of 55″, states Dr Stephens, at Houston Methodist.
It is not yet fully clear why obese individuals are more likely to contract the virus than those who are not obese. However, there are a few theories that support the statistics.
One approach is the fact that those who are obese have more have more difficulty breathing: “obesity has detrimental effects on lung function, diminishing forced expiratory volume and forced vital capacity”.
Also affecting the lungs, is the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea amongst obese individuals, which is associated with decreased lung function and increased lung inflammation. Since Coronavirus impacts the lungs, it is logical that anyone with a breathing difficulty could have a more difficult time dealing with the illness.
Another school of thought is that the molecular properties present in body fat are more prone to holding onto the virus longer than other illnesses, making it more difficult to fight off.
And on the other hand, there are some studies who point at the immune system’s lack of response against the virus, as it is too busy trying to attack the excess fat tissue in the body: “obesity is characterized as a chronic sub-clinical inflammatory morbid entity which can impact the immune responses to infectious diseases through direct, indirect and epigenetic mechanisms.”
How Can You Stay Safe?
If you are obese, you must take extra precautions to help reduce your risk of getting the virus. Most importantly, practice social distancing and wear face coverings. To best limit your exposure, only go outside when absolutely necessary, and only do so if you can wear a mask and stand at least six feet (about 2 meters) away from other people. You also must be vigilant about handwashing and avoid touching your face.
If you have other health conditions, be sure they are under control. Those who are obese often have other health complications, such as diabetes and heart disease. Make sure you are taking your medication and stay on top of any therapies you need.
When at all possible, also try to stay healthy by making some easy lifestyle changes, such as focusing more on a balanced, healthy diet.
COVID-19 is no friend to anyone, but it is particularly harsh with those who are obese and have other risk factors. If you suffer from any disease or disorder, it is imperative to follow your doctor’s advice to have the best chance of staying healthy.
Apart from the complications derived from the current COVID-19 pandemic, living with obesity can pose a huge burden on your overall health. Obese individuals should always follow their doctor’s advice when looking to manage their weight.
At dacadoo we help our platform users effectively manage their weight and health by providing digital coaching, health related goal setting, and tracking of physical exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing. We make health understandable and measurable with our patented Health Score, which changes in real time as an individual’s health progresses.
If you need some inspiration to kick-start your health journey, check out our Summer 2020 outdoor sports ideas, which are mindful of current social distancing precautions.
If you, or someone you know appears to be showing symptoms of COVID-19, please follow your local guidelines to report it and contact your doctor.