Covid-19- The real problem, and the solution, may have been right in front of us all along
Let me start by saying that this should not be mistaken as an article telling you not to take Covid-19 seriously. People are dying and that should not be denied, nor minimized. Our nurses, doctors and first responders are putting their lives on the line against an invisible enemy every day. Our teachers and parents are doing their best to help a young generation build their educational foundation against all odds. Business owners are trying to figure out how to operate with the seemingly random and prohibitive rules created by our politicians. We’ve been making changes and adjustments in our lives for months now, waiting for some clarity that is yet to come. Information is everywhere, but it all seems to be politically driven one way or another. Most of us never go beyond the daily death tolls that we see on TV, or the hearsay and arguments flooding social media and the news about who’s doing what wrong and how someone thinks our policies can be better. If we did step away from that it may change our outlook on the current pandemic.
Only about 7,000 Americans without comorbidities have died. To put that in perspective, one of those comorbidities is heart disease, which kills 647,000 Americans EVERY YEAR.
While we have lost 100,000 American lives in part to this disease, the CDC states that “For 7% of the deaths, Covid-19 was the only cause listed.” That’s 7,000 people. The other 93,000 all had other physical ailments. The CDC also states that the average number of “conditions or causes” per death was 2.5 per person. Follow the link to this chart and see for yourself: CDC Covid-19 Deaths
So what’s the real issue then? Hypertension: 21,000. Diabetes: 14,720. Heart Disease: 10,575. Cardiac arrest: 13,342. Obesity: 2,728. That’s over 62,000 right there. Add in a myriad of respiratory conditions and now we have a real mess. So I ask again, what’s the real problem?
Are we all too oblivious to look at our own lifestyles and say maybe it’s the way we live?
Maybe we need to look in the mirror. Maybe all of this time that we’ve talked about being ok with our bodies went too far and became an excuse to not take care of them. Yes, we come in all different shapes and sizes, and yes, we should be ok with what we look like because genetics plays a huge role in that, but we should still be a healthy version of that person and body.
We’re so quick to become terrified of Covid-19 and stock up on hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, face masks, and toilet paper (I’m still confused by the toilet paper), but when was the last time we freaked out and lost our minds over fast food? We wear masks every place we go now and tell businesses that they’re not allowed to open for fear of spreading the disease, or put extreme restrictions on them, but when was the last time we made it a law that you had to be under a certain body fat percentage to buy a Big Mac? When was the last time we had someone show their lung scan before being allowed to buy a pack of cigarettes?
Every once in a while, we hear about how someone “young and healthy” that died from Covid-19, and we make it sound like those two words are synonymous. Were they young and healthy, or were they just young and not obese? What we look like on the outside doesn’t always correlate with what our circulatory and respiratory systems look like on the inside. Just because you’re lean doesn’t mean your heart and lungs are healthy, and being bigger doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy, but the way that you live does.
Does this sound like you?
I once had a client come to me and tell me about how he needed to lose weight because his doctor told him to. I offered to help him with his workouts and to work with him on his diet. His response to this was “Am I going to have to eat salads for lunch every day or something? Because I’m not going to do that.” At first I would inquire about how he ate and would get answers like “Well it was good the other day but last night was pizza night… I only had three slices though.” He quickly stopped making it to his workouts with one excuse or another, and the rest is history. This is the story of most of America. In dealing with the thousands of clients I’ve met in my lifetime, this is an all too common pattern on one level or another for most people.
This is why 42.4% of Americans are considered obese, up from 30.5% in 2000. Obesity is defined as having a BMI over 30. At a BMI of 35 it becomes class 2 obesity. At a BMI of 40 it becomes class 3 (severe) obesity. Obesity is listed as a comorbidity on the CDC website, and they have a specific statement saying “Severe obesity increases the risk of a serious breathing problem called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)”. While important, that statement ignores the progressive nature of weight gain and increased risk of health complications. Health complications don’t suddenly appear when your BMI reaches 40, they increase as your BMI does.
Inactivity and poor eating habits are not only leading to obesity, but to a myriad of other health issues that come along with weight gain. Increases in heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and some forms of cancer all directly correlate with weight gain. Oddly enough these make up the majority of complications that are making Covid-19 so deadly in America. So do we have a Covid problem, or do we have a lifestyle problem?
At what point do we start looking at ourselves and saying that maybe the way we live is to blame?
We’ve reached the point where we have apps to have fast food delivered to our homes. 40% of Americans are obese, and according to the American Heart Association only 20% of Americans get enough exercise to maintain good health. Where’s the fear of being unhealthy? We’ve been made to feel as if we can’t leave our houses without a mask on without risking death, yet we allow people to order three meals a day at fast food restaurants. Liquor stores are deemed “essential businesses” while parks and gyms are shutdown. People make jokes about the “Covid weight” that they gained because of their level of inactivity, not realizing that is exactly what makes them more succeptible to being sick in the first place. We make useless New Year’s resolutions to “get back in shape”, but when was the last time we were really in shape to begin with? Does anyone realize that the way we’ve been living was already killing people well before Covid, and now it has actually made Covid worse than it had to be?
Dieting alone is not enough.
It will help you lose weight, but your heart and your diaphragm are muscles that get stronger when you exercise them. Your immune system gets stronger when you exercise. We’ve made it a habit wipe down every single thing that we touch to prevent ourselves from being infected, but we can’t make exercise a habit? We have this incredible line of defense against infection called our immune system that we can improve by simply eating well, exercising, and sleeping enough. American’s are always looking for the easy way out, the quick fix, or the magic pill. We need a vaccine for Covid because it is very real and dangerous, especially to our older population, but we already have a cure for the bigger problem that is slowly killing our younger populations. We have this cure, yet most of America refuses to treat themselves because it takes a little hard work and doesn’t come in pill form.
Eat healthy, exercise daily, live well.
This simple prescription will help you combat all of the other ailments that combine to kill MILLIONS each year, and it just may help you fight off, or even survive, Covid-19. Stay safe, and take your health seriously.
Steve Zarriello B.S., CSCS, TPI Certified, is the Owner of Olympia Fitness and Performance in Cranston, R.I. He has been a strength and conditioning coach for almost 15 years and has trained athletes of all sports and levels, but his passion is training golfers to keep them injury free and help them improve their game.