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Obesity and COVID-19 death rate linked

Posted at 3:49 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 10:32:16-05

More than 40 percent of adults in the United States are obese and obesity is one of the top underlying health conditions associated with COVID-19 deaths.

Obese patients who contract COVID-19 are 74 percent more likely to end up in the ICU and 48 percent more likely to die. Dr. Sanjay Gupta says it's partly due to how our bodies are built.

"Our diaphragm is one of the major muscles that helps with breathing," said Dr. Gupta. "Breathe in and the diaphragm contracts and the lungs expand to take in oxygen, but if you're obese, fat in the abdomen can push on the diaphragm, limiting how much air you take in."

Obesity is a precursor to other health conditions like heart and lung disease, diabetes, an impaired immune system, chronic inflammation and blood that is more likely to clot.

"Add COVID-19 to that and the risk goes up even more. See the cells that line your blood vessels and regulate blood flow, they're known as endophila cells and then can become damaged when you're infected with coronavirus."

Dr. Gupta says fat cells themselves may also be more susceptible to COVID-19.

"The virus attaches to cells in our bodies through the ace 2 receptor that's a protein that's on the surface of many cells. It turns out that fat tissue has a high level of ace 2 receptors thus acting in some ways like a reservoir for the virus."

Regardless of your weight, you can reduce your COVID-19 infection risk by wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands.