As we continue to experience COVID-19, preliminary data clearly reveals that severe infections are impacting some people more than others. The elderly, people of color, individuals with chronic health conditions, and people living with excess weight have endured a higher rate of hospitalization and death. Three things that will help all of us are:
- Get vaccinated
- Continue to wear face masks and practice social distancing
- Maintain our own health through physical activity and healthy eating
While the relationship between weight and COVID-19 is not fully understood, most medical professionals believe it involves myriad factors. Patients with obesity (BMI >30) have higher resistance in their airways, making it more difficult to take a deep breath. This impact on breathing becomes a setup for pneumonia, which can trigger a cascade of events, and increase the risk for hospitalization, potentially in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). In addition, excess weight and obesity are associated with chronic inflammation, increasing the risk of pre-diabetes, diabetes, and high blood pressure, making us more susceptible to infection.
Obesity has been on the rise nationwide for decades. Per the CDC, the percentage of adults considered obese has increased from 30% to 42% over the last 20 years. Severe obesity (BMI >40) nearly doubled in the same time period.
Experts in the field of obesity and metabolic medicine understand obesity is a complex disease state with elements of genetics, behaviors in response to body chemistry, and the environment—all playing a role in each individual patient’s weight. In addition, there is significant stigma to obesity, creating barriers to reaching out for help.
The great news is that science-based lifestyle changes can be effective tools for losing weight. Recommendations include:
- Thirty minutes of physical activity three to five days a week
- Five servings of low sugar fruits and vegetables a day
- Eliminating sugary drinks
In addition, medically supervised programs that provide education, structure, and monitoring to revitalize people’s health can be highly effective. Behavioral modification through proper nutrition and exercise are pillars of any weight loss plan and are often more successful with the support of trained professionals.
With the above lifestyle foundation for success in place, the use of metabolic tools including, FDA-approved medications, weight loss devices (gastric balloons and adjustable gastric bands), and bariatric surgery, can help to control the hunger associated with lower calories. The combination of healthy living habits and good hunger control is a recipe for long-term weight loss success.