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If This is Your Weight, You're at a High Risk of COVID Death

A study says that if you are obese, you are also more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Just a week before Christmas, COVID-19 cases continue to explode across the country: All 50 states are now in the "red zone" experts have defined as having "uncontrolled spread" of the disease. It means that your chances to contract the coronavirus are much higher. That's not all. A new study says that if you are obese, you are also more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and have higher risks for complications and death—regardless of your age. Why is obesity such a risk for severe COVID? And do you qualify as obese? Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


First, Determine if You are Obese

Doctor measuring obese man waist body fat.

In the journal Obesity, Research and Clinical Practice, researchers analyzed studies involving 403,535 COVID-19 patients. They found that, compared to having a normal body mass index, obesity doubled the risk of becoming critically ill from COVID; almost quadrupled the risk of dying and increased the risk of needing respiratory support (like supplemental oxygen) by nearly 700%. How to tell if you're obese? By your BMI. According to the CDC:

"Body Mass Index (BMI) is a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. To calculate BMI, see the Adult BMI Calculator or determine BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart.

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to <25, it falls within the normal.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to <30, it falls within the overweight range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.

Obesity is frequently subdivided into categories:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to < 35
  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to < 40
  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher. Class 3 obesity is sometimes categorized as 'extreme' or 'severe' obesity."


Obesity Is Associated With Heart Disease and Blood Vessel Damage

Heart activity on monitor in intensive care unit

People who are obese have a higher risk of heart disease and other health conditions that damage blood vessels, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. COVID-19 can attack blood vessels throughout the body, leading to problems with multiple organs; if blood vessels are already weakened or damaged, that can lead to worse outcomes. The blood of obese people has an increased tendency to clot. COVID-19 also causes clotting in some people, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes or pulmonary embolisms.

RELATED: COVID Symptoms Usually Appear in This Order, Study Finds


Obesity Impairs the Immune System


Obesity causes chronic inflammation throughout the body, which suppresses the immune system. Combined with the bodywide inflammation that COVID-19 can cause—not just in the lungs, but in the brain, heart, kidneys and blood vessels—excess weight increase the risk of complications, including acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which can lead to patients being placed on ventilators and can be fatal.


Obesity Is Associated With Diabetes

Obese woman at a carnival

Obesity is associated with impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome—a condition in which blood sugar, blood lipids, and/or blood pressure are too high—and Type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, people with metabolic syndrome have a ten times higher risk of dying from COVID-19. 

RELATED: Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet, According to Doctors


Excess Body Fat Impairs Breathing


Excess fat in the abdomen presses on the diaphragm, restricting airflow to the lungs and making it more difficult to breathe, even when you're not battling a respiratory infection. Add the lung inflammation caused by COVID-19 to the mix, and it can become difficult for the lungs and other organs to get sufficient oxygen, not just to battle the infection but for basic function.


How to Stay Healthy

family with dad, mom and daughter staying at home wearing facial masks

As for yourself, do everything you can to prevent getting—and spreading—COVID-19 in the first place: Wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael