HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Obesity and COVID-19 can prove to be a deadly combination, according to a new study from the CDC.
The study found that of more than 70,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March and December, nearly 51% were obese and 28% were overweight.
Dr. Ethan Lazarus is the president of the Obesity Medicine Association. His organization trains medical providers on how to treat obesity.
“Statistically, people with a higher body mass index unfortunately were disproportionately being injured by this pandemic,” Lazarus said.
The CDC report showed that obesity is a risk factor for both hospitalization and death.
Dr. Ryan Light with the Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group said, “It's not surprising that people with obesity have more significant trouble with COVID. It's a respiratory disease, and a lot of people who have morbid obesity have respiratory complication just because of the weight on the chest.”
Obesity was a major problem before COVID, but experts say the pandemic has highlighted problems associated with it.
Lazarus said, “Obesity is a medical disease like diabetes, hypertension or even depression. Telling a person with obesity to eat less and that'll cure the problem, that works about as well as telling a person with depression to think happy thoughts.”
Lazarus said there is personal accountability, but he believes the stigma attached to obesity needs to change.
He said the new study has pushed us to recognize that obesity is actually is a medical problem and, “It is a deadly medical problem and it's deserving of treatment at the same level of respect and seriousness as any other medical problem.”
In Virginia, people considered obese are in group 1b and can get vaccinated now.
Lazarus said the study shows importance of staying safe and getting immunized.