Reducing your risk of COVID-19 complications

As we’ve all heard, COVID-19 is most dangerous for the elderly, and also for those with multiple underlying health conditions.

This made me glad that Lisa and I had started our health journey in earnest in October 2016, and that we had each lost at least 40 lbs. by the time the coronavirus arrived on our shores.

While we have been taking all of the necessary precautions to avoid COVID-19, we felt good that we also had been building a good foundation of health to reduce our risk of complications in the event we were exposed.

The latest news now is that COVID-19 hospitalizations are surging here in Minnesota, and the Mayo Clinic Q&A podcast from earlier this week (embedded below) featuring Dr. Stephen Kopecky with host Dr. Halena Gazelka digs into how cardiometabolic disease (heart disease plus obesity, diabetes and the like) leads to poorer outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

From my perspective, here’s the money quote:

Cardiometabolic disease is primarily a lifestyle disease….90 percent of cardiometabolic disease is things that we can change, like our stress levels, or our weight, or our exercise, or what we put in our mouth to eat. And maybe these cardiometabolic patients are saying “I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m not going to really pay attention to (what’s best for my health) or I don’t know how to improve my health.” I mean that’s the real problem, people don’t really know. And sometimes it’s very difficult.

Stephen Kopecky, M.D., Mayo Clinic cardiologist

I think for most people the problem isn’t that they don’t care, but rather as Dr. Kopecky says, “I don’t know how to improve my health.”

That’s what it was for me. Four years ago right now I had been following the main dietary recommendations of the USDA, eating healthy whole grains and avoiding fat, and I was doing 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days.

And I was 60 lbs. heavier than I am today.

My cardiometabolic health is much better now. Triglycerides are down 25 points and HDL (the so-called “good” cholesterol) is up by roughly the same amount.

And here’s my blood pressure from tonight, taken using my Qardio home monitoring device:

While I have never been diagnosed with hypertension, I do recall having systolic readings in the 140s. Now that I can measure my blood pressure regularly, I’m consistently in the Normal (and sometimes even Optimal) range.

The reason I’m blogging about my health journey is for all of those who have perhaps given up in frustration, as I almost did.

If you’ve tried to lose weight and haven’t succeeded, or if you’ve lost some through strenuous effort only to have it all come back, I think my story and Lisa’s can help with your “I don’t know how” problem.

So wash your hands and practice other COVID-safe behaviors. And by finding out how to improve your metabolic health, you’ll not only reduce your risks but also improve the way you feel on a daily basis.

See the whole series about my health journey. Follow along on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 13. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

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