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Doctors: Obesity increases risk of developing severe case of COVID-19 by 20%

Health care professionals encourage people who are obese to consider weight loss exercise program

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said people who are obese are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

But in recent days, doctors who have studied or treated obese patients infected with the coronavirus say it’s worse than originally thought.

Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, chief physician executive of Baptist Health, said the fact that obesity already impacts the respiratory system, and COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, can’t be overlooked.

“It’s related to increased difficulty with breathing and air movement that obese patients have, and clearly COVID-19 has significant respiratory implications,” Ransom said.

People with a body mass index, or BMI, greater than 30 are considered obese, so if they get infected with COVID-19, Ransom said it increases the risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19 by 20%.

“If the BMI is greater than 40, it almost doubles the person’s risk. That is the initial indication that we are finding,” Ransom said.

That’s why health care professionals are urging people who are severely overweight to safely exercise and clean up their diet to help lose weight.

“You know, given these findings about obesity, it’s never too late to start thinking about a weight loss exercise program, and it’s never too early,” Ransom said.

According to health care professionals, a simple and safe exercise is taking a walk outside. You get fresh air, you’re constantly moving and burning calories and you can avoid being around groups of people.

“It is a part of a healthy lifestyle, and it increases your ability to fight off infection,” said Tawanda Washington, with the Florida Department of Health in Duval County.

Author Note: This report is not intended to body-shame anyone. It’s intended to inform readers about why COVID-19 greatly impacts people who are seriously overweight and what can be done to hopefully prevent more deaths.


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