BEING obese or overweight does not only increase the chances of a trip to the Intensive Care Unit, but it also means a greater risk of fatality.
The coronavirus epidemic in the United States keeps advancing without opposition. There have already been more than 3,000 deaths and 33,000 cases in the city of New York alone.
However, the most shocking figures related to this virus are found in New Orleans, in the south of the US.
According to data released by the administration, the rate of death in the capital city, Louisiana is double than the rate in New York, and four times more than the rate in Seattle, in the north of the country. The ratio in New York is 15.9 deaths for every 100,000 residents, whilst in New Orleans it’s 32.
How is this happening? The answer lies in the underlying or pre-existing conditions of those who are infected with the virus, which in this case is obesity.
New Orleans has one of the highest obesity rates in the country, as 37 per cent of its adult population is obese, and 64 per cent is above their ideal weight. “We are simply more ill than the rest of the country,” exclaimed Dr Rebekah Gee, the ex-Secretary of Health in Louisiana, “We already had an enormous disparity in health before the pandemic, this has only amplified it all.”
Obese people do not only have a greater chance of being hospitalised, but a worse progression once they enter the ICU. China carried out a small study in late March on 112 infected patients and concluded that almost half of the deceased showed a body mass index of above 25.
Researchers claim that people with heavier BMIs are likely to have greater lung capacity issues, a higher level of sleep apnea, hyperventilation syndrome and asthma in addition to the excessive weight decreasing the capacity for breathing. This paired with other potential underlying factors such as diabetes or blood pressure makes the task even more difficult.
The Spanish Cardiology Society points to regions like Andalucía, Asturias, and Galicia as the most overweight autonomous communities. Although figures are in no way comparable to those in the United States, which has topped the leader board for the most obese country in a decade, there are striking differences between the Spanish regions. Asturias has around 10 per cent more obese people than Catalonia, 15 per cent more than the Balearic Islands, whilst Andalucia, due to both its size and population has about three million overweight citizens.