The coronavirus health wake-up is here! This pandemic should serve as a loud wake-up call for all of us to prioritize our health over everything else in life. This major health threat has essentially shut down normal life activities on our planet. Every state in the U.S. and many countries have imposed some version of a “stay at home” order on their citizenry. We are living through an unprecedented time in human history and it’s all because of a novel threat to our health that kills great numbers of people very quickly.
Coronavirus Health: This is a Wake-Up Call
I hope that the phoenix that rises from the ashes of this scourge is a new-found appreciation on what really matters in life. Sometimes it’s easier to hear a wake-up call when all the busyness subsides. During this enforced time-out from our normal warp speed, there is time for reflection. Now is the time to take a step back and think about life priorities.
For many years, I’ve been trying to drive home the point that even though we back-burner our health most of the time, it is truly the foundation of every other part of life. This quarantine makes that very clear. I often tell me clients that “Nothing else that you’ve been so busy with matters when you’re in that hospital bed.”
Our everyday lives make it very easy to subsist on take-out and grab-n-go food without any concern about whether we’re taking care of our bodies by providing it with healthy nutrition. Our biology is designed to be quite forgiving. Our bodies hold up for a long time even when we neglect to care for them because they are programmed for survival.
But, at some point, the damage from the neglect catches up with us and all of the sudden the routine blood tests run by our GPs at our annual check-ups reveal that we have developed chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease or Type 2 diabetes. Essentially they are the culmination of prolonged poor lifestyle choices.
The reason I’ve jumped on my high horse to beat the health drum is that one thing we’ve learned about the coronavirus is that the biggest commonality of the victims who have succumbed to the disease it that they had several pre-existing health conditions. Those that contracted the disease had weakened immune systems from these conditions and therefore could not fight it off.
Coronavirus and Underlying Health Conditions
We’ve all heard by now that people generally older than 60 are more susceptible to dying from the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It’s primarily believed this is because there are other health issues at play, as with those who often die from the flu.
Underlying health conditions make the body either more likely to get sick or less able to fight a disease. Recent data has shown that the younger people who have also died from the virus also had significant health issues that heightened their risk of contracting the virus and dying from it.
Thus Americans continue to hear that those who are elderly and with “underlying health conditions” or “compromised immune systems” are most at risk. Despite calls on governments and experts around the world to define what exactly those phrases mean, very little has been done to adequately show just how many people fall into those categories of increased susceptibility. Thus, to no one’s surprise, many assume these “conditions” have nothing to do with them.
The Truth About the Coronavirus and Underlying Health Conditions
We now know that pre-existing conditions are critical with coronavirus health issues.
The evidence all over the world has shown that those at highest risk of dying from the coronavirus are the elderly, particularly those who had pre-existing health conditions. Yet analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that four in 10 adults (more than 105 million Americans) could potentially develop a serious illness from the virus.
The term underlying health condition generally means two different things that both affect a significant portion of the population. The two general ways of thinking about underlying conditions are either chronic diseases (long-term medical conditions like asthma or high blood pressure) or immunocompromised individuals (which is anything that weakens the immune system).
While there is evidence that younger people with underlying health conditions tend to make a full recovery, they are still at increased risk of complications from coronavirus. These include pneumonia, intensive treatment, and difficulty breathing.
What Health Conditions Could Create Higher Risk
Here are the current conditions that could compromise your immune system, putting you at greater risk of contracting coronavirus and having serious complications due to it.
Diabetes: Diabetes is at the top of the threat list due to how it affects the body. If blood sugar has been poorly managed, it weakens your immune system, making it less able to fight infection. Unfortunately, much of this risk is associated with previous diet and exercise, which cannot be undone or changed in a short timeframe.
Heart Disease: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. The term encompasses several types of heart conditions. Sadly, almost 20 million adults over the age of 20 have coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease, which affects blood flow to the heart. Heart attacks and strokes are also common among those who have diabetes, ae overweight, have an unhealthy diet or are inactive physically.
Lung Disease: Lung diseases are some of the most common medical conditions in the world, and are often chronic. The term includes everything from asthma to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to bronchitis. With coronavirus, it appears that asthma sufferers are at a greater risk of being affected by the way it causes an infection in the respiratory tract. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 27 million Americans have asthma.
Obesity: It is well known that being overweight affects various other diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sleep. But it is also linked to a weakened immune system. While the link is not well defined, and appears to be both direct and indirect.
Research in the last few years has contended that the microbiome and the micro-organisms inside and outside our bodies play a larger part than previously thought in our weight and immune system. In tandem, the effects of obesity—even with no other health issues—puts one at greater risk of having a compromised immune system.
Pregnancy: While there is very little known about the role pregnancy might play in susceptibility or severity of the virus, pregnant women are considered at higher risk. This is because pregnant women experience changes to their bodies that may increase their risk to infections, according to the CDC.
Smoking and Drinking: Neither smoking (including vaping) nor drinking are technically considered underlying health conditions, but they are present in many young people’s everyday lives. And they compromise your immune system.
Smokers in particular are at an increased risk of getting an acute respiratory infection. Drinking, on the other hand, disrupts the immune system’s pathways. This impairs the body’s ability to fight infection, and has links to the microbiome. Although neither activity has been directly linked to any coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 deaths, the activities put one at higher risk for contracting the virus and having complications once contracted.
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