I seldom use the term “obesity” in conversations with patients. Although “clinical obesity,” “morbid obesity,” and “overweight” are diagnosis codes that doctors use in notes, society has become too frivolous with those terms. They can easily be misconstrued as demeaning or judgmental.
I talk about body composition. Part of body composition is body fat, along with skeletal muscle mass, and body water.
We have tools and tests at Natural Healthcare Center that allow us to precisely measure a patient’s body composition. In this day and age, when it’s so easy to take these measurements, I find it hard to believe that many doctors continue to use a simple scale.
In other words, they’ll tell you if you’re obese based on superficial metrics like height and weight, which only tell you body mass index (BMI).
Based on that approach, a linebacker who is 6 feet tall and 225 pounds would have a BMI of 30, which is obese on the BMI scale. Of course, this is very misleading because muscle weighs more than fat. Although BMI can be helpful, it’s not specific enough in clinical settings to measure body composition.
To make matters worse, doctors aren’t checking for inflammation, which is directly tied to obesity and a tell-tale sign of underlying health issues.
Inflammation is your body’s built-in defense and healing mechanism. You actually need a small amount of inflammation to fight disease and maintain balance in your body. This is acute inflammation.
By maintaining a healthy weight, you make your body more resilient to disease and infection. However, if you have excess fat, your body’s inflammatory response can overreact or fail to stop even after you’ve recovered. This can lead to chronic inflammation.
As fat cells increase in number and size, different body functions can be affected, from oxygen delivery and hormone control to a suppressed immune response. This leads to more inflammation.
Those who are obese are more easily infected with disease and tend to suffer with a disease for a longer period of time. Research suggests that they’re even more likely to release more viruses and spread disease.
Obesity-related inflammation can increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and even serious complications and death due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 deaths have been linked to what has been called a cytokine storm. Cytokines are proteins released by immune cells and serve as first responders when something harmful is detected in the body.
In a cytokine storm, the coronavirus causes excessive production of inflammatory cytokines, which leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and tissue damage. This is why many patients who recover will have lung damage. In severe cases, a cytokine storm can cause organ failure and death.
Depending on your personal and professional responsibilities, you may not be able to completely eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19. But you do have the power to fight and reverse obesity.
While our leaders told us to wear masks and maintain distance, I’ve also been talking to patients about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. In addition to causing inflammation, obesity can reduce lung capacity and make breathing more difficult.
The only person who can do something about being overweight is you. You have to make that decision. You have the power to take that step and commit to that change.
You can do it. And we can help.
If you’d like to learn more about what steps you can take to make your body more resilient to COVID-19 and other diseases, schedule a complimentary consultation at Natural Healthcare Center.