It’s no secret that underlying health problems can increase your risk of suffering from severe COVID-19. In fact, conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer skyrocket your chances of landing in the hospital and on a ventilator if you get the virus.
And a surprising offender when it comes to health conditions that lead to severe Covid infections is obesity.
Simply carrying around too much weight has been shown in multiple studies to be a risk factor for developing a severe form of COVID-19 that may require hospital admission, intensive care, and ventilator support.
Now the Cleveland Clinic has released more bad news for anyone on the heavier side that may have had or may come down with COVID…
Obesity doesn’t just increase your risks in the initial stages of COVID-19, it also dramatically raises your chances of suffering from long-term complications from the disease. In other words, if you’re heavy you could end up a long-hauler.
A weakened immune system and chronic inflammatory state
The study, published online in the journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, delved into a registry of patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection within the Cleveland Clinic health system from March 2020 to July 2020. And it followed up on each patient through January 2021.
The research team examined three indicators of possible long-term complications of COVID-19 — hospital admission, mortality, and need for diagnostic medical tests. Specifically, they looked for issues that occurred 30 days or later following the first positive viral test for SARS-CoV-2.
They then compared these issues to each patient’s body mass index or BMI. Patients’ BMIs were classified into five groups:
- 18.5-24.9 (normal)
- 25-29.9 (overweight)
- 30-34.9 (mild obesity)
- 35-39.9 (moderate obesity)
- 40 or greater (severe obesity)
And here’s what they found…
A health condition known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) is an extremely common problem in COVID-19 survivors.
And during the 10-month follow-up of the study after the acute phase of COVID-19, 44 percent of the participants had required hospital admission and one percent died.
Yet, the number of people who suffered the syndrome was not the same across the board.
In fact, the results showed that compared with patients with normal BMI, the risk of hospital admission was 28 percent higher for patients with moderate obesity. And it was a whopping 30 percent higher for those classified as severely obese.
To top it off, patients with moderate to severe obesity required diagnostic tests at a rate of 25 and 39 percent higher respectively than those with a normal BMI.
These tests included ones for health concerns like:
- Cardiac and vascular issues
- Pulmonary problems
- Renal concerns
- Gastrointestinal and mental health problems
And this need for diagnostic testing was “significantly higher” in patients with a BMI of 35 or greater, compared with normal BMI patients.
Basically, the researchers say that obesity weakens the immune system and creates a chronic inflammatory state. Those conditions can lead to poor outcomes and long-term complications after infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
Weight management for COVID-19 protection
Luckily, most of us are at a lower risk than we were a year ago. But all of this means that if you want to decrease your risks of severe COVID-19 infection even more — and avoid and the long-term complications that go with the virus, maintaining a healthy weight can help.
Steps you can take to lose any extra pounds include:
- Eat right – Consider moving to a Mediterranean diet packed with fresh veggies, fish, and olive oil.
- Think portions – Focus on starting with smaller portions each day to reduce overeating.
- Keep a food diary – Keeping track of what, how much, and when you eat can help you identify areas where you can improve your weight loss.
- Move more – Even a little extra activity each day can add up to better weight loss.
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