COVID-19 and Obesity: What You Need to Know

COVID-19 is on all of our minds—but life doesn’t stop during a pandemic. As each state in the U.S. plans its strategy for re-opening, it’s more important than ever to understand what can put a person at greater risk and what might impact their recovery.

As researchers all over the world look further into these risk factors, a startling trend has emerged: obesity and underlying conditions often related to being overweight are “common” in the sickest COVID-19 patients.

Read on for the information that you need to know about how obesity affects COVID-19!

Common COVID-19 Risk Factors

COVID-19 is a disease caused by a coronavirus discovered in late 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially classified the outbreak as a pandemic in March 2020. From the beginning, we have been able to identify a few key facts: this is a respiratory illness and it is contagious through close contact.

A common question people find themselves asking is, “how are we able to get more information about a disease we discovered less than a year ago?” The answer lies in close, careful observation of documented cases and the trends that connect patients across the country—and across the world. Some of the most common risk factors for developing COVID-19 are just common sense; elderly and immunocompromised people are, of course, at greater risk, as are individuals with severe respiratory problems.

Physicians have noticed another growing trend in COVID-19 cases—one that impacts over 90 million adults in the United States; obesity, overweight, and weight-related conditions (such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes) lead to increased risk of being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.

How Obesity Puts People At Greater COVID-19 Risk

Jennifer Lighter, MD, noticed a pattern in the Intensive Care Unit among her younger COVID-19 patients: their body weight. She worked with Anna Stachel, the assistant director of NYU Langone Health’s Department of Infection Prevention and Control, on a study of over 3,600 patients under 60 who had tested positive for COVID-19.

One of New York Bariatric Group’s own amazing surgeons, Dr. Pankti Patel, explained the biggest takeaways of the research: “Young people with a BMI over 30 are twice as likely to be admitted to the ICU due to coronavirus related infection. They’re also 3 times more likely to die from this then people with normal BMIs.”

Why is this the case? Dr. Channing Chin weighed in, telling us that people with obesity are especially susceptible due to associated “medical problems and organ dysfunction,” noting that “many healthy, overweight patients have undiagnosed diseases.” This can lead to those who appear totally healthy being severely affected by COVID-19.

Increased COVID-19 Risk from Weight-Related Conditions

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently published their study on over 5,700 patients around the New York City area. Their research unearthed another unfortunate trend; many patients also had an underlying condition. 57% had high blood pressure and just over one third had a form of diabetes. Patients in the study who had diabetes were also more likely to be placed on a ventilator or develop kidney disease while hospitalized.

One of the researchers, Karina Davidson (senior vice president at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research), asked that individuals with hypertension and diabetes to reach out to their doctors if they start noticing unusual or worsening symptoms: “…those patients, at least from our description, are highly represented in the people who have a severe course of the disease.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also notes that serious underlying conditions put obese patients at a greater risk for more severe cases of COVID-19. NYBG’s Dr. Cynthia Weber explained: “This is because obesity leads to the development of major comorbidities such as diabetes and heart disease. Obesity also impares lung function, making patients with obesity more susceptible to breathing problems from the coronavirus.”

Dr. John Angstadt calls obesity “the chronic condition… associated with the strongest risk for critical illness,” and urged those looking to lose weight and change their life to consider bariatric surgery at NYBG. “The virus is probably going to be with us for a while, perhaps through the fall and into the winter,” he said. “Now is the time to take a step to get rid of that excess weight and reduce your risk.”

How Weight-Loss Surgery Could Help Lower COVID-19 Risk

Obesity and overweight have proven connections to dangerous conditions; excess weight is said to account for over 25% of hypertension cases in both men and women, and gaining an additional 10% of your weight can make you SIX times more likely to develop moderate or severe sleep apnea. Thankfully, there’s good news—weight-loss surgery not only helps people lose weight, it can help and improve and even resolve conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and more!

While our bodies rebel against diets by keeping weight on, bariatric procedures like the gastric sleeve help reset metabolism, reduce production of the “hunger hormone,” and give patients the tools they need to make healthy lifestyle changes. Our patients, any of whom have struggled with yo-yo dieting in the past, tell us that their only regret is not having their surgery sooner.

We are enforcing strict guidelines from the CDC and the health department to keep our staff and our patients healthy during this time, so there’s no better time to get started! NYBG is currently offering in-person and virtual consultations to help patients get started, so reach out and start your health journey today!

Come to NYBG.

When it’s time to start a successful weight-loss journey, it’s time to call NYBG! We’re the best practice around and our numbers prove it:

  • 15 skilled surgeons who are leaders in bariatrics
  • 20,000 successful procedures performed with more every day
  • The #1 gastric balloon practice by volume – most balloons placed in the United States
  • 24/7 access to online seminars
  • 100s of videos for patients explaining procedures, answering common questions, and showcasing previous patients
  • Multiple offices located in three states; NY, NJ, CT
  • Since 2000, we boast 20 years of success!

Our commitment to patient success and excellence has earned us accreditation from the Metabolic Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP). This prestigious achievement recognizes only the top bariatric practices. Stop waiting; start achieving better health today. Together, we’ve got this!

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COVID-19 and Obesity: What You Need to Know