SaltWire's Ask a Journalist: You have questions, let's find some ...
What you need to know about COVID-19: July 3
The latest on Nova Scotia's mass shooting
The latest weather columns and browse beautiful photos from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
We have extremely high expectations of government officials to lead us through this difficult time. We expect minimal missteps, strong leadership and for them to do everything in their power to support us economically and protect our health.
It is a topic of conversation daily and I can hear it everywhere even at a six-foot distance. It is OK to have high expectations of our officials. This is what we pay a lot of taxes for, to be prepared and manage these crises. The debate on how that went, how it is going, and how it will continue for some time.
My question is how did you use these last eight or 10 weeks? What responsibility did you take to get ready for the reopening of our communities, workplaces, and society? Having a better immune system has been shown to be a big advantage at the best of times and, of course, now at the worst of times. A strong immune system will support you if you get infected with COVID-19 and we are learning there are lifestyle risk factors that increase symptoms and put you at much higher risk if you contract the virus.
There are risk factors that increase the severity of the illness if you do catch it. It is clear if you have a suppressed immune systems, diabetes, or heart disease the risk of severity in symptoms goes up. One that is always taboo and rarely mentioned is obesity. Many of the commonly discussed risk factors mentioned are complications of obesity. A recent study of more than 3,600 COVID-19 patients in the Clinical Infectious Disease journal found those with obesity were twice as likely to need care in hospital and some were more than three times likely to need intensive care. Interestingly, in this study, these patients only had the risk factor of obesity. The Center for Disease control and Prevention now lists severe obesity as a risk factor for COVID-19.
In China, where the outbreak began, data from 383 patients showed having obesity was associated with a 142 per cent higher risk of developing severe pneumonia associated with COVID-19.
A larger study of more than 4,000 patients with COVID-19 in New York City found severe obesity was a major risk factor for hospitalization, second only to age.
Another study in the Lancet journal showed younger people needing hospitalization were more likely to be obese. (You can calculate your BMI here)
Why obesity is elevating symptoms so much is still unknown. Could it be the inflammatory response (cytokine release) of being obese which already puts a person in a compromised state? Could it be the increase in fat mass makes it harder to breath adding on the lung complications with COVID-19? The authors of the New York study felt “people with obesity are more likely to have higher resistance in their airways, lower lung volumes, and weaker respiratory muscles, which are critical in the defense against COVID-19. These factors make an individual more likely to develop pneumonia, and they place additional stress on the heart.”
A second risk factor is the addition of tobacco. There is growing evidence to suggest that people who are addicted to tobacco are likely to be more severely impacted by COVID-19, because the use of tobacco damages the lungs so they do not work as well. For example, lungs naturally produce mucus, but people who “smoke” have more and thicker mucus that is hard to clean out of the lungs. This mucus clogs the lungs and is prone to becoming infected. This addiction also affects the immune system, making it harder to fight infection.
There are other factors that get you ready to go back into a new world. Better sleep, nutrition (gut health), mindfulness and physical activity. For sure our environment plays a key role to our resilience and health.
Financial health can make personal health behaviours easier or harder. If you are at financial health risk it is harder to focus on personal health behaviours. I hope you are in an OK financial situation as I appreciate the challenges this poses. I hope if you lost a job or are laid off you could take advantage of one of the government programs or someone in your life who is more fortunate can, and has, helped out.
I am not suggesting everyone who needed to lose 50 pounds to be at a lower risk has done so in this stressful time but have you made an attempt? Have you tried? If you have not, maybe this article is the spark. I hope you take advantage of this time to start the process of building healthy habits that allows you to get your weight in a healthy zone. You have yet another reason to.
Another risk factor is the addiction to tobacco. Tobacco is one of the hardest addictions. There are a ton of government programs to support you as you try to work on this addiction. Check out the government site a tobacco free nova scotia. Keep the following facts in mind as you contemplate addressing this difficult addiction … “within 20 minutes of quitting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure drop. After 12 hours, the carbon monoxide level in the bloodstream drops to normal. Within two to 12 weeks, circulation improves and lung function increases. After one to nine months, coughing and shortness of breath decrease.”
If you have read this and thought “how can I even consider making a change during this time?” that is normal. This is a level one thought. It could be you are in a hopelessness state. Seek out some help. Talk to a trusted friend, a counsellor, check into your companies’ benefits program. There are lots of ways to turn this around and I would guess if you reflected you would many times, and many ways, in different aspects of life you have before.
Today is a good day to start. Do not get down if you have not begun the journey. Today is the day to start a plan forward, to get ready. Remember there is a lot of help in the community, for some the first step is to ask for it.
Darren Steeves is the owner of VenduraWellness.com, a company dedicated to improving organizational health one step at a time.