COVID-19 effects a higher risk for overweight, obese people

(Photo supplied/Indiana News Service)

Nearly four in ten Hoosiers are considered obese and that puts them at a higher risk for dying from coronavirus. People who are obese, and even just overweight, run a higher risk of going to the hospital, being put in ICU and dying, than people without the excess weight.

“We don’t see a lot of young people get sick from COVID. But, those that do tend to be overweight or obese,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, vice president for Medical Affairs at Franciscan Health. Doehring oversees the doctors and nurses on staff.

“Being overweight or obese does increase significantly the risk of needing to be hospitalized, needing to be in the ICU on a ventilator and certainly of dying from COVID.’

Doehring said he based that statement on data that’s been collected about the virus and pandemic from all over the world over the past six months. The United States has a higher obesity rate than many other countries, which Doehring said may be contributing to our higher death rate.

“Certainly Indiana has cause for extra concern because of our standing on that front,” he said. Indiana is 12th in the country for obesity.

Doehring said obese or even overweight people, have a higher risk of serious complications because the lungs can’t fully inflate because of the extra weight. The immune system may also not be fully functional, or function as well as it would in someone of a normal weight. He said obesity also encourages blood clotting, which has been a serious complication in COVID patients.

But, doctors have begun modifying their treatments and are getting some results, said Doehring.

“We are proning patients, laying them on their stomachs, which is helping with the breathing piece, helping to oxygenate better. We’re also using blood thinners more aggressively than we were.”

But, there’s no substitute for getting healthier.

“Losing even some weight can help lower the risk associated with COVID,” said Doehring. He said there are many reasons to lose weight, including avoiding diabetes, arthritis, and in some cases, cancer, and coronavirus is another reason.

He also emphasized that coronavirus doesn’t follow any playbook and that there are still many unanswered questions.

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