TENNESSEE, COVID & OBESITY


Tennessee currently ranks sixth in the nation for the highest obesity rate, according to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America.” As of August 2018, the obesity rate in Tennessee is 34.8 %, which is up from 34.8 % in 2017, up from 21.9 % in 2000, and up from 12.1 % in 1990.

According to the "2014-2015 Community Health Assessment" completed by the Knox County Health Department, the percentage of overweight adults in Knox County at that time was 32.9 %. This number had trended up, compared to the previous year. The Knox County releases new data every 5 years, so we look forward to hopefully seeing an improvement in those numbers when they are released later this year.

While it is multifaceted, excessive weight and obesity is often the result of physical inactivity and unhealthy eating. Like many Americans, Tennesseans are consuming high-calorie diets and performing less physical activity than ever. We have became accustomed to the fast-pace life, where it is easier to obtain a meal from a drive-through than to cook something healthier at home. It seems there is less and less time to meal prep, cook, and exercise because of diversely busy work and family schedules. Unfortunately, this is not only increasing physical weight, but increasing the rate of those with chronic disease(s), thus substantially decreasing the quality of life for many.


COVID AND OBESITY

The role of obesity in the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be ignored :

•In a study published in JAMA, 41.7% of the 5,700 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 had a BMI greater 301.

•The same study showed that 33.8% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 had diabetes, one of the most common comorbidities of obesity.

•Another study showed that obesity increases the risk for type 2 diabetes by at least ~6x irrespective of genetic risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions, such as severe obesity (BMI ≥40) or diabetes, are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Obesity is an established risk factor for H1N1 and other influenza infections.

Because COVID-19 is a novel respiratory virus, data are still emerging regarding the risk factors for severe disease; however, information connecting obesity and influenza viruses is well documented:

•61% of individuals who died from H1N1 in 2009 had a BMI ≥30. Another study showed that higher mortality from H1N1 in people with obesity was attributed to defects in certain immune cells.

•Obesity increases risk for hospitalization in adults regardless of viral pathogen status. Adults who have influenza and severe obesity have significantly increased odds of hospitalization.

It can be easy to think that long-term management of obesity may be less relevant during COVID-19, but it is more critical than ever for patients with obesity to get the care they need.

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