Obesity could make fighting COVID-19 more difficult, doctor says

WATCH: Obesity could make fighting COVID-19 more difficult, doctor says

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Doctors say obesity caused more severe symptoms and worsened the infection for a young woman dying from the coronavirus.

The CDC has obesity listed as an underlying medical condition, meaning people of any age are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Doctors say if people haven’t been looking for ways to manage their weight, they need to start.

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"Addressing weight is important, whether there is coronavirus or not. But now we just have one more reason why it is really important," said Dr. Jenny Weaver with Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare.

The Centers for Disease Control has obesity listed as an underlying medical condition.

Meaning people of any age are at increased risk for the severe illness of COVID-19.

“Obesity doesn’t increase the chance that you’re going to get coronavirus, but obesity does affect the severity of the disease and the death rate,” said Weaver.

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According to a recent study by Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare, 35 percent of adults and 39 percent of children are obese in Shelby County.

"Obesity has always been a significant health problem, particularly in the Mid-South and particularly in the Memphis area," Weaver said.

Obesity is determined by one's body mass index. It is calculated by a person's height and weight.

“If your BMI us over 30 you’re considered overweight.  If your body mass index is over 35 you’re considered obese,” Weaver explained.

Doctors say people who are overweight or obese have a difficult time fighting off the virus because their body is in a pro-inflammatory state.

“When you add a viral infection which is pro-inflammatory as well, your body does not have the resources that someone with a healthy weight would to fight the virus,” she said.

Doctors ask people who may be overweight or obese to follow CDC guidelines, as well as begin addressing their weight.

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