NEW YORK, N.Y. – Experts say severe obesity puts people at a higher risk for complications from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus.
Severe obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or above, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). BMI is based on a formula that divides one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters. Click here to calculate your BMI.
The CDC says overweight people are at a higher risk because severe obesity increases the risk of a serious breathing problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
ARDS is a major complication of COVID-19 and can cause difficulties with a doctor’s ability to provide respiratory support for seriously ill patients.
People living with severe obesity can also have multiple serious chronic diseases and underlying health conditions that can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
However, a recently released study suggests young adults with obesity are more likely to be hospitalized, even if they have no other health problems.
The New York University study found that coronavirus patients who were under the age of 60 and had BMIs between 30 and 34 were twice as likely as non-obese patients to be admitted to the hospital and treated for COVID-19 instead of being sent home from the emergency room.
That study also found that those patients were nearly two times more likely to require critical care in an ICU.
“Though patients (under) 60 years are generally considered a lower risk group of COVID-19 disease severity, based on data from our institution, obesity appears to be a previously unrecognized risk factor for hospital admission and need for critical care,” wrote the authors of the NYU study. “This has important and practical implications, where nearly 40% of adults in the US are obese with a BMI (greater than) 30.”
If you are considered obese, the CDC suggests taking your medications for any underlying health conditions exactly as prescribed.
Click here to learn more about COVID-19 and what the CDC says you should do to prevent the spread of the virus.