Recently I was speaking with a biomedical engineer. Yes, that is not a joke, this person specializes in studying small scale biomaterials, viruses, and even vaccine development and immunotherapy. Given this rare opportunity, I started to ask questions. The first thing that I wanted to know, was “Are we all going to end up getting COVID?” His answer was, “you will get this, and I will get this too. It might be in a month or 3 years.” He didn’t say it in a way that sounded harsh or even scary. It was just a matter of fact. We have a new virus that is easily transmitted, and it’s not going away. I then of course replied, what about the vaccine that is being worked on! He replied, “It will be like the flu. Some years it will help if they get the right strain, other years, not so much.”
This got me thinking and doing a lot of research. Sure enough, the more I looked, the more I found similar experts saying the same things. “It is likely that eventually, it will become endemic, and most of us will get infected” Justin Lessler, Professor of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
That’s when I started to consider what we’re constantly being told, “we need to slow it down.” Nowhere is anyone saying, “we need to eradicate it.” Although the majority of people who contract COVID-19 do not have a serious or life-threatening illness, a small percentage will. If a large portion of our population all got this virus at the same time, it would overwhelm the hospitals. This would mean that there wouldn’t be enough resources to treat everyone. Many more of us can survive if it runs through our population slowly rather than quickly.
The next question that I started to ask myself was; if I am going to get this, how can I decrease my chances of having serious complications. This leads to needing to answer several questions, but I will sum it up as best I can.
Who is having the most serious complications?
One of the most recent studies that I could find was from the Journal of the American Medical Association. They describe that having high blood pressure, being obese, and having diabetes increased the chances of needing to be treated in an intensive care unit. The more of those someone has, the more their chances go up of having more severe complications. As I read more reports and studies, these 3 things continued to be on the list as risk factors along with lung diseases such as COPD.
Although the above give us some indication of who’s at risk, it’s not the complete picture. There is still much unpredictability on who will have severe reactions. We’ve all heard stories of otherwise young and healthy individuals having serious reactions.
For some people, it seems that their body’s own immune system overreaction is more damaging than the virus itself. In these cases, a person may have the virus with minimal complications for days to weeks. Once the immune system recognizes this new invader, it goes into an overexaggerated response which causes extremely dangerous levels of inflammation. This is why some specialists say “people with immune conditions like celiac and inflammatory bowel disease may be at higher risk of severe cases of COVID-19” Benjamin Lebwohl, director of research at Columbia University Celiac Disease Center
How to reduce the risk of complications:
Let me start by saying, it’s complicated. Many aspects of how our immune system reacts have to do with circumstances on how we were born and raised. Also, there are some situations in which high blood pressure and diabetes have to do more with genetics than lifestyle. That being said, lifestyle choices, such as eating habits, exercise, sleep, and controlling stress are still the best option for managing the above conditions.
When I consider, who has the most complications? Two things come to my mind.
First, metabolic syndrome is used to describe the condition when a person has high blood pressure, obesity, and high blood sugar. That is very close to what is being found as a major risk factor for complications. Probably the best thing to help treat metabolic syndrome is consistency in exercise and eating healthy.
Second, stress reduction techniques are extremely beneficial for many autoimmune disorders. This includes things like meditation and Buteyko breathing.
I am not alone in coming to this conclusion. Sarah Hawkes, professor of global public health and director of global health 50/50, believes that lifestyle could be a large part of reducing risk for complications. This includes all aspects of health, such as a consistent exercise routine, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and controlling stress.
Where to find help:
Our office will be moving and expanding in the first part of June. We will be offering nutrition coaching, personal training in a safe environment, and workshops on meditation and breathing techniques such as the Buteyko method. To receive the most up to date information on classes, coaching, and personal training you may call us at 314-822-5300. You can also follow us on Facebook here.