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Why is Obesity a Risk Factor for COVID-19?

obesity and covid

You’ve probably heard by now that obesity is a risk factor for COVID-19. This isn’t a rumor – it’s true. Since the pandemic began, dozens of studies have reported that many of the sickest people with COVID-19 have also been obese. Moreoever, a person does not have to be morbidly obese to be at a higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19. Even those who are merely overweight are at a higher risk.

According to one study published in Obesity Reviews, it was found that people with obesity who contracted COVID-19 were 113 percent more likely than people with a healthy weight to land in the hospital, 74 percent more likely to be admitted into the ICU and 48 percent more likely to die.

So why is obesity a risk factor for coronavirus and what can people with obesity do to protect themselves? Let’s find out.

What Makes Obesity a Major Risk Factor for COVID-19?

The biology of obesity involves impaired immunity, chronic inflammation and blood that’s more prone to clotting. All of these issues can worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.

Additionally, people with obesity are more likely than normal-weight people to have other diseases that can complicate coronavirus such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes. They are also prone to metabolic syndrome, a condition where the blood sugar levels and fat levels may be unhealthy. Blood pressure is also likely to be high.

But even without these risk factors, being obese is enough of a problem on its own. Even when adjusted for age, gender, social class, diabetes and heart disease, body mass index (BMI) remained a strong risk factor for complications from COVID-19.

How to Reduce Your Risk for Complications from COVID-19

The best way to reduce complications from coronavirus is to avoid the virus altogether. This includes practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, washing your hands often, avoiding crowds and avoiding unnecessary travel.

If you do get sick, contact your healthcare provider right away. Here are some other tips to follow:

  • Continue taking your medications as recommended
  • Monitor your symptoms and know when to seek emergency care (i.e., trouble breathing, new confusion, persistent pressure in chest, inability to stay awake)
  • Keep in touch with your doctor (if you don’t have a doctor, contact the health department)
  • Stay home – have groceries and medications delivered
  • Take care of yourself by getting rest, staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medications

Most people with COVID-19 have mild illness and can recover from home, according to the CDC. If you have additional risk factors like obesity, stay in contact with your doctor.

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