There are plenty of reasons why losing excess body weight benefits your health. Here’s one more to add to this list – individuals with obesity may experience worse symptoms even with a mild COVID-19 infection. These enhanced symptoms included cough and shortness of breath found to be more severe compared to people of normal weight. It’s also been shown that overweight to obese individuals have longer-lasting respiratory symptoms (median 7 days vs. 4 days) when compared to normal-weight individuals.
These findings are from a new study that looked at more than 500 patients – a mixture of teens and adults – testing positive for COVID-19 but did not require hospitalization. The lead researcher, Dr. Pia Pannara, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles stated that “Even when infected with similar amounts of virus, overweight and obesity are risk factors for greater severity of COVID-19 symptoms.”
About two-thirds of the patients in this study were overweight or obese which is similar to what is found in the U.S. and worldwide. An interesting finding was that overweight to obese children 12 and under-diagnosed with COVID-19 was not affected by having worse symptoms. It was teens and adults with excess weight who suffered from increased severity of symptoms, even with a mild case of the virus.
What these findings have revealed is that people who already have risk factors such as being overweight to obese or already have diabetes, heart disease, or other chronic diseases, have a tougher time fighting off cases of the virus. When immunity is compromised, as is often the case in people carrying excess body weight or have chronic medical conditions, their body struggles to adequately defend itself against the attack from COVID-19.
The main message from this study is the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Healthy living should be promoted and easier to achieve. Healthcare professionals are vital in helping patients reach health goals. These goals should include goals such as safely losing weight, eating healthier foods, becoming more physically fit, or any number of other pertinent ways to get healthier and fit.
Many individuals who are overweight or obese can take the following steps to achieve healthier body weight and improve overall health:
- Meet with a registered dietitian for sustainable ideas on losing weight safely and effectively
- Eat three meals a day that include a good protein source of 25-30 grams at each meal
- Aim to have 20-30 grams of fiber each day. Fiber is only found in foods of plant origin – best sources include beans, nuts, raspberries, pears, apples, oatmeal, and green leafy vegetables
- Avoid highly processed foods such as frozen pizza, chips, cookies, TV dinners, etc.
- Aim to be physically active each day by walking more, riding a bicycle, or doing other activities you enjoy
- Most adults require at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Have a set bedtime routine, refrain from all electronics at least one hour before bedtime, and do light stretching before going to bed
- Have a plan on reducing stress. High-stress levels can lead to weight gain. Find relaxing activities such as meditation, yoga, reading, going on a walk, being outdoors, or any other activity calming stress.