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Posts Tagged ‘obesity and Covid-19’

To say the pandemic of 2020 took a toll on our normal lives is an understatement. Routines were wrecked, and we may have had too much time without any foreseeable outlet. With many families now at home, the pitter-patter of little or big feet may have halted peace and quiet.

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Each of us had different experiences, but one common factor for many was unwanted weight gain. Already a national pandemic by itself, weight gain exacerbated problems. Nearly 70 percent of the US population is overweight. About half of those are obese. Obesity, an underlying factor in many diseases, now has Covid-19 added to the list. Those with excessive weight, especially if plagued with other serious health conditions, are much more vulnerable to contracting Covid-19.

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Research published by JAMA Network Open found that in early months of the pandemic, many gained an average of 1.5 to 2 pounds per month. That adds up in a hurry. The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on the perils of restricted activities. With lost paychecks and concerns about how to afford the next meal, thoughts of exercise faded away. Not everyone had space to make a walking track through their household to help maintain step counts.

However, limited space is only one aspect for weight gain. Many became discouraged, depressed, and lonely—not good motivators for exercise or losing weight. Just getting out of bed may have proved a challenge, not to mention the shear obsession of becoming Covid-19’s next victim. Problems experienced during lock-down affected us differently. Many on the road to a healthful weight slipped into former overeating patterns. In times of stress, many regressed to less healthy foods, whatever those might be. Snacks became more prevalent and less nutritious. Some filled extra time with excessive eating or indulgences in larger portions sizes.

The question is, “What can we do?” Now that many venues have reopened, perhaps we can return to at least some normal activities. Whatever the cause, we can start over. Here are a few guidelines to help.

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  • Assess where you have strayed from healthy eating and analyze the exact reasons why.
  • Determine ways to cope with problems you can’t change.
  • Seek ways to change the circumstances you can control that interfere with good food choices.
  • Set tentative goals. The sun still comes up even if you miss your mark. Try again. However, indifference pushes you farther from where you want and need to be.
  • Set a specific time frame to assess your progress.
  • Find a partner if possible, even if you can’t encourage each other in person. Just sharing difficulties, frustrations, and successes can help.
  • Get back on track. Covid-19 changed our world, but it doesn’t have to define us. Whatever the unpleasant and hurtful experiences, focus on ways to move forward instead of dwelling on the negative past.

You are worth it. You can do it.

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Additional help for confronting unhealthy weight and other issues.

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In March 2020 at the onset of Covid-19 within the US, 14 states reported that about 90 percent of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 had one or more underlying conditions. The most common health problem was hypertension (49.7%), while obesity (48.3%) ranked second. Obesity is a major risk factor for contracting Covid-19, but why?

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To comprehend the relationship between obesity and Covid-19, it’s important to understand the hormone leptin. Leptin, from the Greek word “leptoes” which means thin, is a hormone that regulates the appetite by reducing hunger and helps to regulate energy balance.

The relationship of obesity to leptin surfaced in the mid-1990s. Leptin signals the brain when we are full and to stop eating, and possibly at the same time, it increases energy expenditure. At first, it seemed a possible panacea for the treatment of obesity. Although a slight increase in leptin reduces the appetite and can be a major factor in weight loss, excessive leptin doesn’t have the same effect.

Most leptin is produced in fat cells, but some are also produced in lung tissues. In diet-induced obesity, fat cells produce leptin in large quantities. The more obese a person, the higher the levels of leptin. However, a quirk within the cells not completely understood, results in a detrimental effect from too much leptin and causes the obese to become “leptin resistant.” Therefore, they lose little if any weight. How does leptin-resistance impact the obese in this pandemic virus?

Not only does leptin regulate energy balance within the body, interactions between the nervous and endocrine systems, and metabolism (chemical reactions within cells to maintain and sustain life), it is involved in regulating cells that fight infection—our immune system. Molecules of the hormone leptin are trapped in the fat cells. These highly ineffective leptin levels can result in chronic inflammation thereby increasing susceptibility to infections and autoimmunity including Covid-19. 

Individuals with obesity also are prone to hypoventilation (inadequate oxygen levels caused by breathing at an abnormally slow rate) which results in high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the blood and not enough oxygen. High leptin levels in the obese cause the body to produce more blood CO2 levels during the day that cannot be attributed to other factors or conditions.

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Covid-19 has proven once again that medical issues more frequently arise in those with diet-induced obesity. Statistics show that in the US, nonwhites have higher rates of obesity. While many consider this a societal problem, it is also an individual issue. With nearly seventy percent of Americans overweight and more than half of those obese, each of us is responsible for maintaining a healthy weight. Eating healthier foods helps deter obesity and is a win-win for everyone. Educating society, especially those with obesity, to consume fewer calories and make wise choices when eating may well be a good option to combat Covid-19.

         

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