Since President Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 and hospitalized, medical experts have emphasized that the president’s obesity puts him at higher risk of complications and a worse outcome. On Saturday, the same analysis was applied to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 after spending time with Trump earlier this week. Why is obesity such a risk for severe COVID? Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had Coronavirus.
In the journal Obesity, Research and Clinical Practice, researchers analyzed studies involving 403,535 COVID-19 patients. They found that, compared to having a normal body mass index, obesity doubled the risk of becoming critically ill from COVID; almost quadrupled the risk of dying and increased the risk of needing respiratory support (like supplemental oxygen) by nearly 700%.
People who are obese have a higher risk of heart disease and other health conditions that damage blood vessels, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. COVID-19 can attack blood vessels throughout the body, leading to problems with multiple organs; if blood vessels are already weakened or damaged, that can lead to worse outcomes. The blood of obese people has an increased tendency to clot. COVID-19 also causes clotting in some people, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes or pulmonary embolisms.
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Obesity causes chronic inflammation throughout the body, which suppresses the immune system. Combined with the bodywide inflammation that COVID-19 can cause—not just in the lungs, but in the brain, heart, kidneys and blood vessels—excess weight increase the risk of complications, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can lead to patients being placed on ventilators and can be fatal.
Obesity is associated with impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome—a condition in which blood sugar, blood lipids, and/or blood pressure are too high—and Type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, people with metabolic syndrome have a ten times higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
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Excess fat in the abdomen presses on the diaphragm, restricting airflow to the lungs and making it more difficult to breathe, even when you’re not battling a respiratory infection. Add the lung inflammation caused by COVID-19 to the mix, and it can become difficult for the lungs and other organs to get sufficient oxygen, not just to battle the infection but for basic function.
As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.