The U.S. ranks as hardest hit by Coronavirus, and also one of the un-healthiest countries in the world. Coincidence?
If you’re staying in this weekend instead of risking it out in the world, we have some resources for you! Check out these other articles of ours in our “What can I do to boost my immune system” blog series:
If you want a video to describe some of the potential benefits nitric oxide and other antioxidants may have on Covid-19, head over to our informational video here. If you’re a health professional or researcher who wants every last detail, this article provides the educational information you are looking for.
Now let’s get into the topic of our today’s interest, why a healthy weight is so essential for a healthy immune system.
In the midst of the 2019-Coronavirus pandemic, many of us are scratching our heads as to why the numbers look so bad for the United States. Is it policy? Preparedness? The U.S. healthcare system? Culture? Diet and personal health choices?
The real reason is “all of the above”. But all signs point to one culprit that we all have the power to change: the preventable lifestyle diseases many Americans have trouble coping with. With the top 5 causes of death being up to 40% preventable according to the CDC, the smoking gun will stay pointed at our health until we do something about it.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced the issue front and center.
These diseases are mainly driven by the decisions we make everyday.
The issues we’ve been able to avoid by relying on medications and an already overburdened healthcare system are putting us at higher risk of death during this pandemic. Let’s start doing something about it.
Compared to other industrialized countries, the United States health is in the gutters. The numbers speak for themselves: 33% of Americans were obese in 2014, ranking number 1 in the world according to research in The Lancet. According to the CDC, in the U.S. that number has increased to about 41% in just 6 years.
Just looking at the impact of chronic diseases isn’t enough though. For example, what explains the fact that hypertension ー one of the most significant risk factors for severe Covid-19 outcomes ー is more common in Japan than in the U.S., yet Japan is experiencing an extraordinarily lower burden due to Covid-19?
Public health policies definitely contribute - just look at the International Monetary Fund’s Covid Response Tracker - Japan has taken a science based response and reaped the reward.
Look at baseline health:
Cultural differences between Americans and the global leader across the Pacific play a huge role as well. Generally, Japanese people have a diet that’s dominated by vegetables, especially veggies that promote healthy nitric oxide levels. See here for our article on synergistic vegetable combinations that optimize your nitric oxide.
Beyond just a comparison with Japan, in the entire world America is ranked number 1 for:
These may look like different topics entirely, but I think there could be a common thread here. Rather than looking out for the greater good and assuming the best in other people, American’s are known worldwide for their culture of looking out for themselves.
In the U.S., we live in a “me” society, not a “we” society.
Look at how Japan, Germany, China, Taiwan, South Korea, and other countries have responded to Covid-19: the authorities trusted the scientists when they locked the country down, the citizens knew they were doing the right thing to listen, and many of these countries have slowed or even completely stopped the spread of the SARS-Cov-2.
On the other hand, when a community made up of self-interested individuals is suddenly faced with a national emergency, it’s clear that people pull away from one another, rather than showing up for one another. They do things that promote their own health instead of looking out for the health of their neighbors. They fly in the face of public health recommendations, instead of recognizing those mandates as individual inconveniences that promote the greater good.
I’m not trying to vilify the U.S. There are so many people in this country doing amazing work for the betterment of society. I’m asking you to number among them:
A “me” society vs. “we” society seems to be a predictor of how the country fares during the pandemic. It’s just an observation, and it only explains a part ー not all ー of Covid-19 crisis in the U.S., but it starts to make more sense and the evidence is all around us.
The American way of life has been digging the U.S. in a hole for decades. I’ve got a hard, but absolutely necessary, pill to swallow: the reality of this situation is ten times worse now that a pandemic is upon us. The chronic diseases that come along with obesity are leading to unnecessary deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, read more on that below.
Many factors lead to obesity.
Other factors outside of our control are:
All that accounts for about half of the variability between people that causes unhealthy weight. The other half has to do with the decisions we make each and every day.
Ways to improve health at the population level fill policy books, flood research centers, and occupy nonprofits day and night. Instead, we’re going to focus here on how you or someone you know can make decisions that resist that “obesogenic environment”.
Your surroundings may be outside your control, but your choices are what define who you are.
“Health At Every Size” is definitely on to something. Discrimination in healthcare, a fixated emphasis on weight alone outside of a healthy lifestyle, and a lack of person-centeredness are all things someone who’s carrying around extra weight are aware of.
Albeit all too slowly, healthcare professionals are getting better at addressing obesity in a way that empowers people instead of belittling them. This is of vital importance because, even if you want to emphasize health - and not necessarily just weight ー you also have to address unhealthy weight aspects, there is no way around it.
It comes down to honest, kind communication and ability to guide people with healthy strategy, not emotions.
The research shows that only 5% to 18% of people who have obesity are healthy. So, only 1 person out of 20 who’s carrying around an extra 30 pounds is actually in good health.
“Health at every size” doesn't mean that every size is healthy, it means that there is a healthy weight for everybody. Focus on the health, not the weight, and you or someone you care about is going to be on the right trajectory. We’ve got some real tips you can use or recommend later on in this article.
When it comes down to it, having an unhealthy weight affects society and individuals. It increases healthcare burden, ups risk of complications and other diseases, but it also increases your chances of pancreatitis, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, gut issues, osteoarthritis, and lowers immune function, among dozens of other issues. Lately, research on “sarcopenic obesity” ー a condition in which excess body fat causes inflammation and muscle wasting ー is particularly relevant, as sarcopenia combined with any of those other conditions is a recipe for poor outcomes.
In the United States in particular, obesity is emerging as one of the leading contributors to Covid-19 severity. In multiple studies, having a BMI greater than 35 makes someone 3.2 to 3.6 times more likely to be in critical care. BMI greater than 30 was associated with a 5x increased risk of death and accounted for about 50% of the negative effect that diabetes has on Covid-19.
Avoid the “coronavirus 10” as it’s been called, and take this opportunity to take your health to the next level. If you were worried that you didn’t get to do everything it seemed like everybody else on social media was doing during the strict social distancing mandates, this pandemic is certainly not over - there’s still time, and the time is now!
According to genetic researcher Robert Plomin, a genetic predisposition to being overweight does not mean we don’t have a choice. In fact having a genetic predisposition makes it all the more important to make healthy choices - no matter how heritable a condition is, it’s our choices that decide whether it becomes a problem or not. This kind of reasoning applies to all levels of what causes poor health.
In a culture of “I want it and I want it now”, a lack of patience, emphasis on materialism, and a de-emphasis on doing the long hard work that leads to success, it’s no wonder that it’s so hard to lose weight in the U.S.
Americans are generally more prone to emotional eating, because American policies hardly support the mental health of our citizens and then there’s junk food, fast white carbs, and convenience foods around every corner.
You certainly have to experience the emotions that come up for you, but you can engineer an environment that makes it harder to succumb to emotional eating. Implement a rational strategy so that your emotions don’t make you do something you'd regret.
Health takes time and discipline.
You start turning the wheel slowly at first, but as it picks up momentum, over the course of years staying healthy becomes easier, and your healthy behaviors stick with you.
When it comes down to it, changing our health for the better is about understanding the problem, embracing the challenge, and doing what’s better for you and the people around you.
You have to actively resist the trajectory that the American “obesogenic environment” pushes us all towards.
I pointed out that pursuing your own health is an act of service to everyone else. It’s also important for those who can push the American way in a healthy direction to do so. The food environment is rigged against disadvantaged populations, and you see the disparities in access to health playing out before our eyes during covid-19.
So if you can support the health safety net, I encourage you to do so. Programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Nutrition for Women Infants and Children (WIC), local farmer’s markets, local sustainable food hubs, and like-minded nonprofits and foundations are all unified in their goal to promote population health.
For-profits are not exempt though.
Our fundraiser, the Make America Healthier #HealthyBucketChallange, has a goal of raising $30,000 to help alleviate food insecurity.
This fund was created for families who have been laid off and don't have enough money to buy food, especially fresh vegetables, and fruits to support their immune system and heart health. The funds will be used specifically to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits for 10 local families so they can eat fresh vegetables and fruits every day.
Additionally, we will take $1 of each purchased product towards this cause.
For those who can, be the change you want to see, vote with your dollar and support good businesses. Change the environment from fast food and processed convenience foods to a slower food movement, one that promotes health, intention, and equitable access.
First, I want to say that Resync is here to help you live a healthier life!
Check out our blogs and you’ll find tips and evidence-based information to help you harness your health.
We have resources on foolproof, research-backed ways that anybody can use to get to a healthy weight:
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Wishing you the best in your health,
The Resync Team
Alberca, Ricardo Wesley, et al. “Obesity as a Risk Factor for COVID-19: An Overview.” Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, June 2020, pp. 1–15. DOI.org (Crossref), doi:10.1080/10408398.2020.1775546.
“CDC Press Releases.” CDC, 1 Jan. 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0501-preventable-deaths.html.
Japan vs United States: Health Facts and Stats. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Japan/United-States/Health. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.
Mills, Katherine T., et al. “Global Disparities of Hypertension Prevalence and Control: A Systematic Analysis of Population-Based Studies from 90 Countries.” Circulation, vol. 134, no. 6, Aug. 2016, pp. 441–50. PubMed Central, doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.018912.
Ng, Marie, et al. “Global, Regional, and National Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity in Children and Adults during 1980–2013: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.” The Lancet, vol. 384, no. 9945, Elsevier, Aug. 2014, pp. 766–81. www.thelancet.com, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60460-8.
“Policy Responses to COVID19.” IMF, https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.
Yadav, Rakhee, et al. “SARS-CoV-2-Host Dynamics: Increased Risk of Adverse Outcomes of COVID-19 in Obesity.” Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome, vol. 14, no. 5, 2020, pp. 1355–60. PubMed Central, doi:10.1016/j.dsx.2020.07.030.
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