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COVID-19 and Your Weight


We all know that a healthy weight is an important part of overall health. Researchers are finding that people’s weight can also have a major impact on how their body is able to recover from COVID-19.

Does my weight put me at risk for COVID-19?

Anyone can develop COVID-19, however there are certain factors that could increase your risk for complications to the disease. One of those risk factors outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is obesity, in addition to many others including age, having cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, heart disease and hypertension.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Not sure of your BMI? Use this simple BMI calculator by entering your height and weight. BMI is a good indicator of your weight health for most people. People who shouldn’t rely on BMI include muscle builders, long-distance runners, pregnant women, elderly people or young children. If you fall into one of those categories, consult with your health care provider about your weight.

Why is weight a risk factor for complications from COVID-19?

Any time someone develops an illness and has a comorbidity (an existing condition), it impacts the body’s ability to recover. Since people with obesity have less respiratory reserve, they may find it harder to recover from any respiratory illness, including COVID-19. “Obesity has been found to be an independent risk factor for poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19,” says T. Daniel Harrison, DO, with LVPG General and Bariatric Surgery. “Obesity is the primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea – all of which come with poorer outcomes in COVID-19 patients.”

Should I lose weight during the pandemic?

The pandemic should not stop your pursuit for health. “Overweight patients should continue to work on their overall health and weight control, even during the pandemic,” says Harrison. “This includes continuing on a path toward bariatric surgery.”

There are many socially distant ways to get exercise, including going for a walk, run or bike ride outdoors. You can also cook more at home using healthy ingredients. It’s also a good idea to speak with your provider for guidance.

Is it safe to pursue bariatric surgery during the pandemic?

In short, yes. “In the beginning of the pandemic, Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) delayed all non-emergent procedures, including bariatric surgery, to preserve personal protective equipment and ensure that the health network had sufficient resources for patients with COVID-19,” Harrison says. “We now have a much better handle on the numbers and can track our hospital rates effectively.”

With additional safety precautions, LVHN restarted bariatric surgery in early May. All bariatric patients are on a separate floor of the hospital than COVID-19 patients, and everyone who enters the building from colleagues to patients and visitors is screened for COVID-19.

The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) recently released a statement saying that people with obesity are “safer through surgery” during the pandemic. “It is better to have had bariatric surgery and lost weight, rather than to remain obese and at higher risk,” says Harrison.

It's easy for you to take the first step on your weight-loss journey. Attend a virtual weight-loss info session to have your questions answered by one of our surgeons. Sign up at LVHN.org/weightloss.