WHAT RISK FACTORS for COVID 19 CAN WE CONTROL?
COVID 19 became the leading cause of death in the U.S. at the end of 2020, as the virus surged throughout the country. It is now more deadly than heart disease and cancer. Old age is the leading risk factor for COVID to become a critical illness and/or deadly. Obesity is second ( https://nyti.ms/30HpRTI ).
Among adult Americans, 70% are now overweight. More than 33% are obese. Being overweight increases the risks of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, both of which are also risk factors for COVID. The American Psychological Association conducted a poll in late February, which showed that 42% of people polled had gained an average of 29 pounds during the pandemic.
The conclusion is inescapable: too many of us engage in less than healthy exercise and nutritional habits. We often rely on medication to repair these self-inflicted wounds, which is a “quick fix” and allows us to remain passive about our own health.
The now well-known shortage of toilet paper and other paper goods for the home early in the pandemic was accompanied by a less-well-known shortage of flour and yeast. Many people staying home began making baked goods – comfort foods to help with the stress of living a suddenly-restricted life. Rates of tobacco smoking, as well as alcohol use, also increased as we all searched for ways to reduce tensions. The same poll cited above revealed that almost 25% of all adults were drinking more alcohol, which is empty calories and prompts less judicious behavior.
In a small study two diets were provided that were matched for calorie count, sugar, fat, salt, fiber, and protein. One was unprocessed foods only, while the other was ultra-processed foods (think corn on the cob or canned corn versus Doritos corn chips). Allowed to eat as much as they wanted, the folks on the ultra-processed foods consumed 500 more calories per day. “Betcha’ can’t eat just one” is true. A daily regimen of vegetables and fruits, with protein sources of primarily fish, beans, and nonfat milk, along with portion- controlled snacks and regular exercise (preferably daily) can keep weight stable well into old-age. This holds even during pandemic induced stresses.
Therapists at IPN can support all of these efforts at healthier living, as well as help reduce the emotional stressors of the pandemic: anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, alcohol/substance use, and relationship difficulties. See the previous blogs over the last several months.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org Telehealth sessions are available by phone or video call.
Copyright 2021 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.