Obese Covid-19 patients twice more likely to be in hospital ICU, says study; experts share dos and don’ts

A new study has said that individuals with a high body mass index (BMI) are 50 per cent more at risk of death, or being admitted to an intensive care unit if infected with Covid-19. The University of Gothenburg study examined more than 1,500 people who were hospitalised due to Covid-19 to assess the probability of prolonged intensive care in hospitals, and death.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study found that the likelihood of hospital admission in ICU is twice for obese patients with higher BMI. As per World Health Organization (WHO), BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of the person’s height in meters (kg/m2).

As per WHO, overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.

“In this large cohort of Swedish ICU patients with Covid-19, a high BMI was associated with increasing risk of death and prolonged length of stay in the ICU,” the Swedish academics noted.

“Based on our findings, we suggest that individuals with obesity should be more closely monitored when hospitalised for Covid-19,” they added.

As per a Lancet study, although as yet unproven, “interventions that reduce weight might reduce the risk of severe Covid-19 outcomes in individuals”. “In the longer term, our findings highlight the need to work towards a healthy weight at a population level. Additionally, such efforts towards achieving a healthy weight should help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, which have continued throughout the pandemic and which place ongoing burdens on health-care systems,” reads the study published in June 2021.

Know how obesity affects Covid-19 symptoms

Obesity is a common, serious, and costly chronic disease, said Dr Gopi Krishna Yedlapati, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad. “Having obesity puts people at risk for many other serious chronic diseases and increases the risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” Dr Yedlapati said.

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Obesity affects most of the physiological processes and modifies the functions of the system including the immune system hence making the person vulnerable to many infections, said Dr Chetan Rao Vaddepally, Consultant Pulmonologist, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad

What can you do?

Systemic change takes time, as does long-term weight loss, mentioned Dr Yedlapati.

In addition to the steps everyone should take to slow the spread of Covid-19, individuals can help protect themselves and their families during this pandemic by:

*Eating healthy
*Being active
*Sleeping well
*Managing stress
*Addiction avoidance towards alcohol and smoking

“Over time, these actions can help individuals with obesity improve their overall health. Even if they result in even modest weight loss, there are health benefits, such as improvements in blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars. And with a healthy BMI, the risk of severe illness from Covid-19 is reduced,” added Dr Yedlapati.

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