Americans Proving Unfit to Fight a Covid-19 Pandemic
I ventured out to the grocery store this weekend and I was shocked to see some of the groceries that people were stocking up on; especially during a pandemic caused by a virus that obliterates those who are less healthy individuals.
But then I started thinking, Why am I so shocked?
This is nothing new.
Ever since I started practicing and caring for people, it has been obvious how little people care about their health until it's too late.
And for someone who is so passionate about health and optimizing for longevity, it's hard to see people suffering from chronic disease unnecessarily.
Journaling about this adventure, I recognize that Americans are not prepared to fight a viral outbreak because our baseline health standards are trash.
With all our understanding and knowledge – we are so ill prepared to make the right decisions when we need to the most.
From cart to cart, there were boxes of soda, chips, candy bars, alcohol, sugar loaded juices and highly processed boxes of food products.
Unfortunately, it's the epitome of what this virus has decided to target.
Four Flaws Making Covid-19 More Deadly for America
1. The Obesity Epidemic Continues to Grow
Close to 50% of the U.S. population will suffer from obesity by 2030.
It is well documented that Obesity increases the risk of respiratory infections and more importantly increases the severity of those infections.
It was also discovered that during the 2009 H1N1 epidemic, obesity itself became a “novel” risk factor for severe cases requiring ICU care; 61% of individuals who died from H1N1 had a BMI >30.
Follow-up studies showed that people who struggle with obesity have cellular defects in certain immune cells that contributed to higher mortality.
South Korea has some of the lowest obesity rates in the world, and this could partially explain their lower COVID-19 mortality thus far.
2. We are Super Sedentary
Only 35% of the adult population over the age of 65 is physically active.
What is being physically active? According to the NIH, physical activityis any body movement that works your muscles and requires more energy than resting.
This can include 30 minutes of walking, running, dancing, swimming, yoga, and gardening.
A 2013 study showed that for every 5% increase in physical inactivity the rate of influenza-related hospitalization goes up by 7%.
While intense exercise has been known to suppress the immune system, moderate-intensity exercise not only improves immune function but also potentially reduces the risk of severity of respiratory viral infections.
In one study, mice randomized to moderate exercise and then injected with H1N1 strain had one-third the mortality rate of those in a non-exercising control group (18% vs 56% mortality).
In a randomized study in people over the age of 50, those randomized to an eight-week exercise program before the cold and flu season had 35% fewer cold and flu episodes and 47% fewer sick days.
3. Only 9% of Americans Meet the CDC's Vegetable Intake
Holy crap. That means 91% of Americans are not consuming the minimum amount of whole fruit and vegetables.
This is also why it's estimated that more than 90% of Americans have nutritional deficiencies that negatively impact their health!
Now for the Kicker – For every 5% increase in the number of Americans with low vegetable and fruit intake, our influenza hospitalization rises by 8%.
In another study, older adults randomized to a diet high in vegetables for 16 weeks prior to receiving a vaccine had greater antibody response to the vaccine, suggesting that vegetable intake enhances our immune response.
In a 2010 study of over 1,000 women in Boston, those with the greatest fruit and vegetable intake had 39% fewer respiratory viral infections during pregnancy.
4. We are Psychologically Stressed the F' Out
In 2018, a third of Americans visited a doctor for stress-related conditions and some surveys have reported that on any given day, over 50% of Americans are suffering from acute or chronic stress.
In numerous studies, stress (chronic stress in particular) is associated with suppression of both our cellular and humoral systems.
In 13 studies, psychological stress was demonstrated to be associated with decreased antibody response to influenza vaccine.
In a study I would never volunteer for, investigators measured stress via a series of questionnaires and then intentionally infected 394 people with five respiratory viruses.
They found that rates of both respiratory infection and clinical colds after infection were increased in a dose-response manner with increases in the degree of baseline psychological stress.
In another study, people who received an eight-week mindfulness meditation class right before cold and flu season had 33% fewer infections and had 66% fewer missed workdays.
What We Can Learn From This
It's quite obvious how much panic, hysteria and fear is circulating.
You can almost feel it in the air when your out and about.
Many people have voiced concern for the lack of preparedness by our healthcare system and government for the COVID-19 outbreak.
Yes. We hae a lack of quarantine protocols and diagnostic testing kits and there are shortages in key healthcare supplies, nutritional supplies, groceries and it's all put us in a tight spot that has become devastating.
This is absolutely historic.
And as a result, we have had to resort to a “shelter in place” panic response that is already leading to widespread economic disruption.
South Korea has had a much better and less disruptive response for many reasons, but one overlooked factor is that they are a healthier population at baseline compared to Americans.
In response to the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, cities revised building and geotechnical codes and standards to ensure that the next one would not be as deadly.
It's obvious that we can adapt.
It's what humans are ultimately the best at.
I can only hope that after we emerge from this crisis as a nation, people will wake up and begin addressing the obesity and lifestyle epidemics that have been wreaking havoc at the foundations of our health and wellness long before SARS-Cov2 or COVID-19 came to be.