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COVID-19 and Obesity

Did you know that if you are obese (BMI of 30 or greater) and get COVID-19, you are more likely to die from the virus than if you have heart failure, chronic lung disease, or cancer?

“The study found that the strongest hospitalization risks were age over 75, obesity and history of heart failure, in that order.”  ( )

Why is obesity such a risk factor?

There are several theories, and here are the big ones:

Inflammation: Obesity is well-recognized to be a pro-inflammatory condition. Fat tissue acts like an organ. Excess fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals, like CRP, especially belly (visceral) fat. Studies show that the patients who present with COVID-19 and the highest levels of CRP, are more likely to end up on a ventilator or die. The higher your initial inflammatory load, the sooner your immune system is overwhelmed trying to respond to the COVID-19 virus. Other factors that contribute to inflammation include: poor gut health, poor diet, high blood sugar, smoking, stress, lack of exercise, food sensitivities, and poor sleep. If you are a patient of mine, you know I emphasize the importance of an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and I often check the CRP.

Compromised Immune System: Chronic inflammation from fat cells, high blood sugar, etc, impairs your immune system’s ability from fighting infection and disease. For example, if you already have a slow burning fire (chronic inflammation), a virus is like throwing more gasoline onto the fire. And soon you have a roaring fire that consumes you, like COVID-19.

Comorbidities: Obesity is associated other diseases (comorbidities) that put you at higher risk if you get COVID-19. For example, if you have heart disease, your heart may not be able to survive the stress of pneumonia or a ventilator. In diabetes your metabolic function is affected, which interferes with fighting infection and delays healing.

Improve your chances of survival. Now more than ever, excess weight is a detriment to your health. Losing weight is one of the most significant actions you can take to protect yourself. Projections predict COVID-19 will be a risk for several months or even a couple years, until we have effective treatments, vaccinations, and herd immunity. “Herd immunity” means that more than 60% of the population either contracts (and recovers from) the virus or gets a vaccine. COVID-19 will likely surge again in the fall flu season, as we are unlikely to have an effective vaccine at that time

Now is the time to begin your weight loss journey and make your health a priority to increase your chances of survival, not just for yourself but also for your family. As an essential medical service, we are here to support you in person or by telemedicine.

Dr. Christine James Dr. Christine James As a regional leader in obesity medicine, Dr. Christine James helps people from the Seattle area transform their lives. She provides science-backed, individualized weight loss programs at Sound Medical Weight Loss in Kirkland, Washington. Dr. James specializes in helping patients improve their overall well-being, including their cardiovascular health and conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea.

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