Lose Weight and Reduce the Risk of COVID-19 Complications

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Published on March 22, 2021

Lose Weight and Reduce the Risk of COVID-19 Complications

Photo of a woman exercising in her homeAs the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed during the pandemic, doctors noted a troubling phenomenon. People who were overweight or obese were more likely to develop severe complications, require hospitalization or even die if they contracted the novel coronavirus.

Losing weight if you are overweight or obese can help improve your health in many ways. And now you can add lowering the risk of serious illness associated with COVID-19 to the benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

How Weight Affects COVID-19 Recovery

The risk of severe or lingering coronavirus complications may increase due to these factors that are common among people who are overweight or obese:

  • Restricted diaphragm movement: Your diaphragm, the large muscle beneath your lungs, contracts when you take a breath, allowing air to more easily enter your lungs. Abdominal fat restricts the movement of your diaphragm, which may worsen with coronavirus-related breathing issues.
  • Inflammation: The coronavirus triggers inflammation in the blood vessels, increasing the risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke. Fat cells, especially those located in the abdomen, produce substances that also inflame blood vessels. As inflammation in your body rises, so does your risk of serious COVID-19 complications.
  • Protein receptors in fat cells: The coronavirus attaches to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) protein receptors in the body’s cells. The receptors help control blood pressure, wound healing and inflammation. ACE2 receptors may not be able to manage these functions effectively once the virus binds to them. The receptors are found on many types of body cells, including fat cells. You have a higher number of fat cells if you’re obese or significantly overweight, which might make it easier for the virus to overwhelm your body.
  • Obesity-related conditions: The more underlying health conditions you have, the greater the chance that you’ll develop coronavirus complications. If you’re overweight or obese, you may also have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. Losing weight will help you control these conditions and reduce your risk of severe COVID-19 complications.

“Losing weight not only helps with coronavirus complications, but offers many other health benefits,” said PIH Health Bariatric Surgeon, Justin Braverman MD. “A 5-10% loss in weight can lower blood pressure, ease sleep apnea, reduce inflammation and ‘bad’ cholesterol, and decrease the risk of diabetes. Excess weight also puts tremendous pressure on joints, so shedding extra pounds may also reduce the risk of arthritis.”

Losing weight is an excellent way to reduce the risk of coronavirus complications while helping to improve overall health. If you’re not sure how to start or haven’t been successful in the past, talk to your doctor. To learn about weight loss surgery, visit PIHHealth.org/Bariatrics.

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The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.