You love KFC. You avoid eating anything green or drinking water. Prefer to sit around the house gaming rather than going for a run. Your cholesterol is up, you’re taking meds for your high blood pressure, and every winter you get a cold despite getting the flu jab. Guess what? Those lifestyle choices you’ve been making could be the difference in how hard this bad ass COVID-19 impacts you – if or when you contract it.
I get it. You don’t like change. Comfort food makes you feel good; especially in these stressful times. And damn it, KFC tastes soooo good. But your lifestyle choices could affect how hard you get hit and, in extreme cases, whether you live or not. How will my body react to contracting the virus compared to yours?
It begs the question, how susceptible are you to disease compared to how vulnerable you are to disease? Susceptibility is how likely you are to catching it, while vulnerability is about how severely it affects you once you’re infected. With COVID-19 we are all equally susceptible to being infected because it is a novel or new virus, which means none of us have any antibodies or immunity to it. However, we are not all equally vulnerable to how severely we are impacted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state the following are at a higher risk of severe illness if they contract COVID-19:
- People aged 65 years and older
- People who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility
- Other high-risk conditions could include:
- People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma
- People who have serious heart conditions
- People who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment
- People of any age with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] >40) or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk
- People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk.
Many of the above are what medical experts call lifestyle illnesses. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be caused by poor nutritional choices. Lung disease can be caused from smoking. Which is why scientists and medical experts are saying that your lifestyle could make you more vulnerable to disease. This includes things like your lifestyle choices, age, socioeconomics, or your exposure to toxicants.
The Harvard Health Medical School advises that your first line of defence against disease is maintaining a harmonious and balanced immune system with a healthy lifestyle. By looking after your body and maintaining a healthy immune system you are more likely to defeat invading pathogens. Those with a compromised immune system will not be armed to fight the virus in the same way a person who has been making healthy lifestyle choices will.
Poor lifestyle choices inhibit your immune system
Key poor lifestyle choices that can compromise your immune system and limit your body’s ability to fight disease are:
- fatty diets comprising mostly of takeaway foods and soft drinks
- not exercising
- not getting enough sleep
- drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- not practising proper hygiene – eg. Washing your hands frequently
Your age makes you more vulnerable to disease
How old you are can increase your vulnerability to disease because as you age your immune response capability is reduced which can lead to more infections and cancer. ‘Respiratory infections, influenza, and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide,’ states the Harvard Medical School, hence why so many of our elderly have a higher vulnerability to COVID-19. This increase in vulnerability is thought to be linked to a decrease in T cells in the aged. T cells play a vital role in immune response and maintaining health by circulating through the body looking for infections. The cytotoxic T cell kills cells that are infected with viruses.[i] This is why CAR T-cell therapy is used to help cancer patients.
Key takeaway – if you fall in the specified age bracket take extra care with your health to ensure you are empowering your body with everything it needs to stay fit and healthy, knowing that you are more vulnerable. Biohacking methods like fasting, cold therapy and supplements like NMN can help slow or reverse the ageing process.
What you eat impacts your health
Your gut hosts more than 35 trillion microbes known as gut microbiota. Your body have evolved to manage this many guests in a mutually beneficial relationship called symbiosis – in which two species coexist.
Gut health is an evolving area of research for scientists with the gut commonly called the second brain because of its overall importance to complete body health. If your gut isn’t happy then your body won’t be.
Nearly 80 per cent of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut creating a strong and important link and relationship to ensure your overall health.[i] Scientists have been able to make a connection between nutrition and immunity. Poor nutrition leads to bad gut bacteria upsetting the harmony of gut health, making you more vulnerable and can lead to disease[ii].
Key takeaway – Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables and avoids sugar. Take a good probiotic.
These are stressful times – absolutely. The new stress of coping with your changing lifestyle, isolation and the prospect of getting COVID-19 amplifies the existing day-to-day stresses you already deal with. Whether it’s having to cope with a looming deadline at work, a relationship breakdown or juggling kids, home, and work at once. It’s even more important now to be aware of your stress levels and implement measures to reduce it.
Many modern ailments, like heart disease and skin conditions can be linked to stress. Stress has also been linked to ageing by increasing cortisol – the stress hormone, and lengthening your telomeres – a measure of biological age.
Your socio-economic status also influences your stress levels with studies showing those with a higher income have longer telomeres.[i]
But we all cope differently to stress. The state of our mind affects the state of our health.[ii] Studies have also shown that stress has a direct link to parts of the immune system.[iii]
Key takeaway – here are some suggestions to help alleviate stress:
- listen to music
- release control
- eat well – a nutritional plant-based diet
- take supplements like Ashwagandha or Valerian
- drink herbal teas like Chamomile or Green Tea which can help improve serotonin levels
- laugh and have some fun.
I firmly believe that understanding your health status enables and empowers you to manage and improve your health, and reduce your vulnerability to disease. You can’t always stop viruses but you may be able to improve how your body fights a virus. Think of your body as a high-performance car, without the right fuel and maintenance it won’t function as well. I sincerely hope this information helps you in some way. Stay safe everyone!