Obesity Named Top Risk Factor For COVID-19. These 6 "Doctors" Can Help
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
So many people are anxiously awaiting a vaccine for COVID-19. And of course, the sooner we get a vaccine the better. But we have to take matters into our own hands right now. We have to take responsibility for our health not only to reduce our risk of contracting coronavirus but also to experience milder symptoms and avoid serious complications should we contract it. We also need to avoid adding stress to our already incredibly overwhelmed healthcare system.
“Obesity appears to be one of the biggest risk factors related to COVID-19 hospitalizations and critical illness, researchers have said. In a study of over 4,000 patients in New York City, scientists found that after age, obesity was one of the most significant factors associated with poorer health outcomes of coronavirus,” according to one news report.
“This virus is terrible, it can hit young people, in particular obese young people. Those who are overweight really need to be careful,” said Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, France’s chief epidemiologist, in one report.
“That is why we’re worried about our friends in America, where the problem of obesity is well known and where they will probably have the most problems because of obesity.”
One in three Americans of all ages (that's more than 100 million people) are obese. This disease affects more than 42 percent of the American population.
“Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled in the U.S., and today, the country has some of the highest obesity rates in the world: one out of six children is obese, and one out of three children is overweight or obese,” reports Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Carrying excess weight increases the risk of developing many serious health issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even cancer. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing serious complications (such as acute respiratory failure and pneumonia) from COVID-19.
Focus on what you can control.
Excess weight against your chest makes it harder for your diaphragm and other muscles to draw in a deep breath. And when fighting a respiratory disease as vicious as the coronavirus, you need your respiratory health to be as strong as possible.
In addition to this, abdominal obesity restricts “...diaphragmatic mobility and rib movement, which promotes changes in the dynamics of the respiratory system and reduces its compliance, leading to mechanical impairment of the respiratory muscles,” according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Being obese also increases the risk of other respiratory issues such as asthma, and it also weakens the immune system by causing chronic inflammation throughout the body.
We cannot control our age or genetic predispositions to certain health issues, but we can certainly make an effort to control our weight and maintain a strong immune system. This goes far beyond the number on the scale. It includes doing our part to stay active and eat healthily. It involves being proactive about our health and well being and consulting our doctors when necessary.
So allow me to introduce the best six “doctors” to help you be healthy and win the fight against COVID-19.
- Doctor Sunshine
Sunshine doesn’t just feel good on the skin, it’s necessary for getting vitamin D. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a critical nutrient for bone and muscle health. And there is also evidence which suggests that vitamin D has powerful immune-boosting properties and provides protection against acute respiratory infections.
Furthermore, “Though somewhat speculative, a posing challenge to those with obesity during the COVID-19 pandemic may involve vitamin D deficiency/insufficiency,” according to one medical report.
“Interestingly, emerging data posits vitamin D could be an adjunct to manage the pro-inflammatory milieu or “cytokine storm” observed in COVID-19 patients. This, in turn, presents an attractive option as the clinical implications of symptom severity and management appear to be exacerbated in the setting of hypertension and diabetes – both of which are typically connected to obesity.”
According to this report discussing one study, being obese can actually cause a deficiency in vitamin D. (To be clear just boosting your vitamin D levels alone will not help you lose weight).
“According to the researchers, for every 10 percent increase in body-mass index (BMI), a person can expect to have 4.2 percent drop in blood levels of vitamin D.”
There are not many foods that naturally contain vitamin D. There are some products in the grocery store, like orange juice, which are fortified with vitamin D, but you mainly have to depend on the sun in order to get an adequate, natural intake of vitamin D.
If necessary, you may have to incorporate supplementation (per the advice of a competent healthcare professional).
“It is also worth noting, daily or weekly supplementation with vitamin D (D2 or D3) has been shown to offer protection from acute respiratory infections – particularly among individuals exhibiting vitamin D deficiency,” according to the medical report referenced earlier.
- Doctor Water
Water is one of the six basic nutrients you need to live. The others are protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. But water is the only nutrient where absence will cause death within days. In addition to keeping you hydrated, water helps us digest our food, enhances the absorption of nutrients from food and gets rid of waste.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that dehydration decreases innate immune function, and one study suggested that obese people are more likely to be inadequately hydrated.
- Doctor Rest
What I mean by rest is sleep. So many of us act as if sleep is a luxury, but it is absolutely a necessity. A lack of adequate sleep can put an overwhelming amount of stress on the body, decreasing immune function and increasing the risk of obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Try to stick to a regular bedtime and for additional tips on how you can get adequate, quality rest, including certain foods that may help, read here.
- Doctor Air
Air contains oxygen which every cell in your body needs to live and function. The cells use oxygen to help metabolize (burn) the nutrients released from the food you eat and for energy.
To put your need for oxygen in perspective, you can live for weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without oxygen.
Fresh air may also improve your mood, and I strongly believe that feeling depressed can have a very significant impact on maintaining a healthy weight and fighting disease.
(Read here on how you can help avoid excessive exposure to both indoor and outdoor pollution).
- Doctor Exercise
This one is pretty self-explanatory, however, the importance of exercise cannot be overstated. Exercise helps with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise may also strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression, help you get more and better sleep, improve symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which affects the lungs and more.
To learn how to properly fuel your body (both before and after your workouts), read here.
Doing your exercises outdoors can also help you get acquainted with doctors #1 and #4. And what is also amazing is that this medical report says that even indoor physical activity may improve vitamin D levels through certain biological mechanisms.
(If you have any existing lung or heart disease (or any other medical issues), it is recommended that you speak with your doctor or a competent healthcare professional about what exercises are appropriate for you. You may have to start small and work your way up. The good news is that when your health improves, you can usually increase the intensity of your workouts).
- Doctor Diet
Again, this one is self-explanatory but cannot be stressed enough. I don’t like to play favorites with these doctors, but I think diet is the most important one. Without a doubt, healthy, nutrient-rich food is medicine, and processed, nutrient-void food is essentially poison.
Ultra-processed foods are the main culprit behind America’s obesity epidemic and increase the risk of developing so many other health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, dementia, cancer and depression.
You can't “out-train” or “out-supplement” a poor quality diet. In order to fight COVID-19, we have to maintain a healthy weight and maintain our overall health by eating plenty of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables.
It is also imperative to maintain nutritional balance and avoid any vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Taking routine nutrient tests is the only way to assess if you are nutritionally balanced. If the test reveals that you are not, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making changes to your diet and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
And finally, I think this goes without saying but avoid smoking and drink alcohol in moderation (if at all).
Remember, prevention is better than cure!
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.