It is well-known that older age greatly increases your risk of becoming severely ill or dying from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. But it turns out that being overweight is almost as dangerous.
Of the 2.5 million deaths attributed to COVID-19 as of the end of February, 2.2 million occurred in countries where at least half the population is medically classified as overweight, according to a report from the London-based World Obesity Federation.
In fitter countries — where less than half of adults are overweight — the chances of dying from COVID-19 are typically a stunning one-tenth the level seen in countries where more than half the population is overweight.
The report authors defined “overweight” adults as those with a body mass index (BMI) above 25 kg/m2, a standard used by organizations such as the American Heart Association. They defined “obese” as a BMI above 30 kg/m2.
BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight, expressed in kilograms per square meter. But don’t worry — you can use a BMI calculator like that of the National Institutes of Health to determine your BMI without having to convert measurements or do math.
While acknowledging that the report findings are incomplete and may change as the pandemic develops, the federation says the initial data has “serious public health implications” in a world where obesity has been a surging problem for decades.
As the World Obesity Federation report authors note, COVID-19 is not the first viral respiratory infection where obesity has been implicated as a factor that makes illness worse:
“Data from the last two decades on the impact of MERS, H1N1 influenza and other influenza-related infections show worse outcomes linked to excess bodyweight. An overweight population is an unhealthy population, and a pandemic waiting to happen.”
Additionally, a separate large analysis by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released March 8, found that a higher BMI is associated with an increased risk for a severe case of COVID-19.
The CDC researchers also found that being overweight or obese is a risk factor for needing a mechanical ventilator and that obesity is a risk factor for hospitalization and death, especially among people who are age 65 or older.
Another separate recent study also found that being overweight or obese may hamper the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19 now being given to millions of patients.
Getting slim while fattening your bottom line
If these findings are a wake-up call that has inspired you to lose weight, check out HealthyWage.
This app lets you bet on a weight-loss goal and pays you if you reach the goal. The amount of money you earn depends on factors such as the amount of weight you lose and the time it takes to lose it.
Learn more about HealthyWage in “10 Ways to Lose Weight and Pay Down Debt — at the Same Time.”
A gym membership can be costly, but odds are you don’t need it. There are plenty of ways to work out for free. For more, check out “9 Free Ways to Work Out From Home.”
Finally, preparing your own meals at home can save you money and help you avoid unhealthful processed and restaurant foods. One diet is especially good for your waistline and overall health. Read about it in “This Is the Best Diet for Your Health in 2021.”