A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that older individuals and people of any age with co-morbidities such as obesity may be at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

According to this report, three important comorbid conditions among hospitalized patients due to COVID-19 are diabetes, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease.

While it is too early to have strong data to support this in this pandemic, it is likely to be associated with a more severe disease course with COVID-19, especially as morbid obesity patients with a body mass index above 40 will also have obesity-related comorbidities.

In general, patients with severe obesity are more difficult to manage in an intensive care setting than normal patients and can be difficult to cope with, especially if a respiratory infection such as COVID-19 develops.

Cardiovascular disease is also quite common in obese patients, which may mean that these patients will have less physiological reserve if cardiac complications of COVID-19 develop.

Even if there is no data to identify obesity as an independent risk factor for hospitalization or mortality with COVID-19, it is fair to say that people with obesity are at higher risk due to underlying diseases that are strongly associated with obesity.

Most of the obesity patients have at least one obesity-related co-morbidity, and type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease are frequently encountered. Other comorbidities include hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and chronic kidney disease.

Why are obesity patients at risk for serious respiratory disease?

The prevalence of lung problems in obese patients is higher than in normal weight individuals. Asthma, sleep apnea, restrictive lung disease, and pulmonary problems associated with gastroesophageal reflux all compromise the baseline lung function of obese patients and will likely increase the risk of serious illness with COVID-19.

There are many questions that need to be answered about certain obesity-related risk factors that we have not yet clearly identified, but we can say that obesity, which compromises heart or lung functions, increases the risk of severe development of the disease.

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