Improve Your Metabolic Health to Reduce COVID and Other Disease Risk Severity
It’s been a year (or more depending on where you live) since COVID lockdowns began. A whole year, that’s enough time to see significant changes in your health IF that time was spent focusing on it.
Yes, I know gyms have been closed, demands have increased, and lives have changed, but I’m a positive and long-term thinker… during all of that, I have still focused on my families overall health and I’d like to help you do the same.
It is indisputable that age and health affects COVID infection severity. In fact, age and health affects nearly all disease severity and mortality risks.
For COVID, we need to wear masks in public, physical distance, AND focus on our metabolic health.
Improving our metabolic health will help us reduce risk for all diseases, so what are you waiting for? There is no time like the present to eat healthier, obtain or maintain a healthy weight, focus on blood sugar and blood pressure normalization, and move your body. Every day is a new opportunity to focus on your health.
American’s aren’t metabolically healthy
As I wrote about last April, a study published in the journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders, only 1 in 8 American adults (12%) have optimal metabolic health. This is measured by having ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and a healthy waist circumference without having to use medications to normalize the values.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) more than 2/3 of American adults are considered to be overweight or have obesity and this is projected to be 50% obesity by 2030!!!!
So what does having a healthy weight and metabolic health have to do with COVID – I’ll show you, and there has been so much researched on COVID this last year that writing about it makes it easy, so easy that I can let the title of a few research articles speak for themselves. All of these articles are different despite some having similar titles.
It’s well studied that lifestyle factors such as current health, weight, stress management, exercise and diet all affect your risk outcomes.
- Whole-town study reveals more than 40% of COVID-19 infections had no symptoms
- Initial COVID-19 infection rate may be 80 times greater than originally reported
Are you going to be able to find a study or two to contradict the numerous studies below? Probably, but it won’t distract from the volume of evidence showing that focusing on health is worth it for COVID, other diseases, and longevity. There are only positive outcomes when eating healthy, sleeping more, having a social support system, and getting moderate exercise.
Preexisting Conditions and COVID Risks
Again, American’s aren’t metabolically healthy. This makes it so that if you have a preexisting condition such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes of diabetes, fatty liver, obesity, or other inflammatory conditions then you are more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die from COVID. This virus is deadly for those who aren’t metabolically healthy.
- Study estimates two-thirds of COVID-19 hospitalizations due to four conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart failure, and “each is an independent predictor of severe outcomes”)
- Adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19
- Diabetes, hypertension may increase risk of COVID-19 brain complications
- Study links abnormally high blood sugar with higher risk of death in COVID-19 patients not previously diagnosed with diabetes
- CDC: Evidence used to update the list of underlying medical conditions that increase a person’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19
- Over 80 percent of COVID-19 patients have vitamin D deficiency, study finds
- Impact of COVID-19 infection on patients with congenital heart disease
- Inflammation predicts which COVID-19 patients will develop severe infection
- Vitamin D deficiency may raise risk of getting COVID-19, study finds
- Metabolic syndrome linked to worse outcomes for COVID-19 patients
- Does high blood sugar worsen COVID-19 outcomes?
- Global COVID-19 registry finds strokes associated with COVID-19 are more severe, have worse outcomes and higher mortality
- Researchers develop model to predict likelihood of testing positive for COVID-19, disease outcomes (high blood sugar, high blood pressure, on anti-depressants)
- Hospitalized COVID-19 patients with diabetes represent more than 20 percent of ICU population
- Heart attacks, heart failure, stroke: COVID-19’s dangerous cardiovascular risks
- For people with diabetes and COVID-19, blood sugar control is key
- Study reveals how smoking worsens COVID-19 infection in the airways
- Male sex, BMI, smoking and depression all increase biological age
- People with dementia at higher risk for COVID-19, study finds
- COVID-19 is dangerous for middle-aged adults, not just the elderly
- Blood sugar control use reduces risk of death for patients with COVID-19 and diabetes, study finds
- Males of all ages more affected by COVID-19 than females, study finds
- Smoking associated with increased risk of COVID-19 symptoms
- Stroke and altered mental state increase risk of death for COVID-19 patients
- COVID-19: persistent symptoms in one third of cases
- People with rare autoimmune diseases at increased risk of dying during COVID-19 pandemic
- What makes certain groups more vulnerable to COVID-19? (inflammation and oxidative stress)
- COVID-19 and Fast Foods Consumption: A Review
- Diets high in fructose could cause immune system damage (sugar causes inflammation)
- Processed foods make up about 70 percent of the Standard American Diet (that’s why it’s called SAD). Also of note, there’s an estimated 5,000 different additives that are allowed to go into our food. What’s the quality bar of what you are eating?
- According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) more than 2/3 of American adults are considered to be overweight or have obesity.
- Factors inherent to obesity could increase vulnerability to COVID-19
- COVID-19 lockdowns worsen childhood obesity, study finds
- Relationship between COVID-19 deaths and morbid obesity
- Obesity may alter immune system response to COVID-19
- Obesity linked with higher risk for COVID-19 complications
- Underlying illness risk factors for severe COVID-19 or death (being male, obese, or having underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease)
- COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate childhood obesity
- Influenza and obesity: its odd relationship and the lessons for COVID-19 pandemic
- Overweight/obesity as the potentially most important lifestyle factor associated with signs of pneumonia in COVID-19
Sedentary Lifestyle Creates Inflammation; Exercise Decreases Inflammation
Inflammation is involved in most diseases; cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia, autoimmune diseases and more. If we can moderately exercise, we can reduce our overall inflammation which will decrease pain, swelling of tissues, and disease risks.
- Physical inactivity linked to more severe COVID-19 infection and death
- COVID-19 Is Making Americans Even More Sedentary
- Americans sit more than any time in history and its literally killing us – Sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950
- Americans are becoming increasingly sedentary
- Prevalence of Sedentary Lifestyle — Behavioral Risk Factors
- Has COVID-19 knocked us onto our backsides? – Researchers sought to examine the impact of pandemic-related changes upon physical activity and sedentary behavior, specifically sitting.
- How Exercise Fights Inflammation | Live Science
- Just 20 minutes of exercise enough to reduce inflammation, study finds
- Does Exercise Reduce Inflammation? Here’s What a Preventive Medicine Doc Says
- How Exercise Decreases Inflammation
- Effects of physical exercise on inflammatory markers of atherosclerosis
- The right exercise and diet can reduce chronic inflammation
- The Relationship Between Exercise and Inflammation
Social Isolation and Stress Increase Disease Risks
We all think we know how to take good are of ourselves: eat your veggies, work out, and try to get enough sleep. But how many of us know that social connection is just as critical? Social connection is the experience of feeling close and connected to others. It involves feeling loved, cared for, and valued, and forms the basis of interpersonal relationships. Increasingly, social connection is understood as a core human need, and the desire to connect as a fundamental drive. During COVID it’s important to maintain physical distance AND retain social connectivity.
- COVID-19 may deepen depression, anxiety, and PTSD among pregnant and postpartum women
- How are older adults coping with the mental health effects of COVID-19?
- Social isolation during COVID-19 pandemic linked with high blood pressure
- COVID lockdown loneliness linked to more depressive symptoms in older adults
- A regular dose of nature may improve mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Significant psychological toll from New Zealand COVID-19 lockdown
- Excessive alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Alcohol use changed right after COVID-19 lockdown
- Loneliness levels high during COVID-19 lockdown
- COVID-19 has likely tripled depression rate, study finds
- Health, well-being and food security of families deteriorating under COVID-19 stress
- Survey finds large increase in psychological distress reported among US adults during the COVID-19 pandemic
- ‘Aging well’ greatly affected by hopes and fears for later life
- Drinking during COVID-19 up among people with anxiety and depression
Is COVID racist? No, but a lot of humans are unfortunately. It’s important to remember, race isn’t a determinate for disease, racism is. The Native, Black, and Hispanic American populations are more likely to have pre-diabetes and diabetes, eat processed foods, as processed foods are cheaper, and have access to fewer resources (savings, employment, and health care). This is a simplistic view on a very complex problem that this article can’t even begin to address. American culture and laws need to change in many ways to ensure equality in education, employment, property availability, neighborhood quality, health, and a whole lot more.
- Four major predictors of COVID-19 emerge in new study (Neighborhood, age, low income, and Black)
- Historical racial and ethnic health inequities account for disproportionate COVID-19 impact
- Neighborhood deprivation and COVID in Louisiana
- New review confirms disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black, Hispanic populations
- COVID-19 shutdowns disproportionately affected low-income black households
- COVID-19 reduced U.S. life expectancy, especially among Black and Latino populations
- Poverty linked to higher risk of COVID-19 death; study suggests
- More than half of in-hospital deaths from COVID-19 among Black, Hispanic patients, study finds
- Black and Asian patients have increased risk of severe COVID-19 at different stages of the disease, UK study finds
- Nationwide study shows disparities in COVID-19 infection for Black and Hispanic people
- COVID-19 hospitalizations analysis shows disparities across racial and ethnic groups
What 23andMe found from 1 million study participants
23andMe now has a COVID risk test3 where you can assess your likelihood of getting a severe sickness from COVID and what they ask to assess risk, after studying more than a million participants, is your BMI (weight and height), exercise frequency, and pre-existing conditions. These factors make or break your risk. They didn’t include genetics, just lifestyle habits, and since it’s lifestyle, it means you can do something about it!
Improving your Metabolic Health & Reducing Disease Risks
Currently, only 1 in 8 American adults has ideal levels of blood sugar, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure, and a healthy waist circumference. These symptoms all trigger inflammation which affects your risks for COVID as well as a host of inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis, asthma, digestive disorders, autoimmune disorders… and more. Chronic inflammation is now thought of as the trigger for nearly all disease.
If you need help managing lifestyle factors such as weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, stress management, exercise, and diet reach out, I’m here to help!
- Prevalence of Optimal Metabolic Health in American Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2016 https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/met.2018.0105
- Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake, Hall et al. Cell Metabolism, May 2019
Erin Williams, MSN CN LMP, is the founder of EZBalance.com, a health and wellness company established in 2001. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Purdue, a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, and is currently studying to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Erin enjoys sharing her love of natural health and wellness with people through lectures, blogs, and consultations.