As obesity's link to COVID-19 grows, one family that lost 24-year-old daughter diets together

The extra weight on people in the 40-plus BMI range who contract COVID-19 increases the chance they will require hospitalization, likely in the ICU.

5/23/2020 10:31:00 PM

Along with making mechanical ventilation harder, being severely overweight can make it harder to breath, reducing the patient's own ventilation, a physician said.

The extra weight on people in the 40-plus BMI range who contract COVID-19 increases the chance they will require hospitalization, likely in the ICU.

Depending on a patient's size, an ultrasound's view is more limited because of the excess tissue. Some of the most obese patients may not even be able to have a CAT scan because the machines have weight limits, Brown said."Literally, if they are large enough, you lose some of the tools in your tool box," she said.

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Fildes, who recently retired from his nephrology practice in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, worked with children who had diabetes that would turn into renal disease if they didn't comply with their dietary and glucose guidelines.Fildes said some of his teenaged patients weighed 300 to 400 pounds and some developed high blood pressure as young as 11.

The risk of having a high BMI is so serious that Dr. Talal Munasifi said he and most other plastic surgeons won't perform an elective, cosmetic procedure on patients with BMIs of 35 or higher unless they lose weight. Many surgery centers won't perform even needed medical procedures on people whose BMIs are 40 or higher, he said.

"Once you go over 35, the complication rate gets high," said Munasifi, also a clinical professor at MedStar Georgetown University hospital. The most likely complications are infection and delayed wound healing.An estimated75,000 people die a year from infections they developed in health care

facilities, according to a 2014 CDC study.Excess fat cells create other problems, too. They are believed to release inflammatory signals that cause the immune system to overreact to coronavirus,, according to new research.Death spurs family to diet, exercise

Brown, who is Mexican American, said obesity and its risks are a familiar topic, personally and professionally. She's been especially worried about her parents, whom she described as obese, during the pandemic because they have Type 2 diabetes."The unfortunate thing is we tend to have many of the co-morbidities," Brown said of the Latino population.

She said her parents are eating more carefully now, especially since her father realized he was still eating bread when he had tortillas.Marcos Melendez said a couple of his friends died recently of COVID-19, and obesity was their only risk factor. He is Peruvian-American and his wife is from Costa Rica. Their daughter's loss has made everyone in the family improve their diets and exercise.

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"We need to take care of it all," he said.Since Silvia Melendez's death, the family drinks protein shakes in the morning, doesn't drink sodas and stops eating at 6 p.m., with only water until bedtime. They are"walking and doing a lot of things" recreationally, he said.

Silvia Melendez's mother, also named Silvia, has diabetes and high blood pressure like her daughter. She has continued the diet she started before her hospitalization and has already lost 30 pounds.After losing his daughter, Melendez couldn't imagine losing his wife.

"I was really scared about her, too," Melendez said."That virus is very dangerous. It goes after the weakest thing in your body, especially if you are overweight." Read more: USA TODAY »

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