Experts Say Obesity Increases Risk for Severe Illness

Blanca Martinez said due to her health problems and weight, she doesn't leave her home in order to limit her chances of getting the coronavirus

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people of any age with certain underlying health conditions, like obesity, are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

It's a reason Blanca Martinez, 65, said she hasn't left her home in months.

"It made me worried, and every day I try to get my diet in the right way because I don't want to take a room at the hospital because I know there are a lot of people who need it," Martinez said.

The wife, mother and grandmother weighed 500 pounds last year and has lost 80 pounds since. She still has diabetes, asthma and trouble walking.

Martinez said her doctors told her that if she were to catch COVID-19, she would have a tough recovery.

"I've seen an 85-year-old who has done very well with COVID recover very nicely, but we've seen younger ones who are overweight, obese who have a prolong course of their illness," said Dr. Nikhil Bhayani who specializes in infectious diseases at Texas Health Resources.

“We know it can take many weeks before you recover from COVID, I’ve read it can almost take up-to-two months to recover, especially the folks who are overweight, they tend to notice, they get short of breath quickly and it’s very hard for them to carry on their activity as they were living before," Dr. Bhayani said. “I think a lot of that has to do with when you’re carrying so much weight on your trunk it causes the chest cavity, where your lungs are situated, to reduce its size.”

Martinez has remained home for the last five months, except for doctors' visits, but it's starting to take a toll on her.

"I can’t do nothing but stay here," Martinez cried. She lives in an apartment and has trouble getting around and doesn't have a car.

"I have a lot of health problems and I am trying to survive them. I love life, for me life is the most wonderful because I have a beautiful family, my grandkids," Martinez said.

She said she's cut down on carbs, tortillas and sugar and trying to improve her diet.

Sarah Wilcox, who is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with Trusted ER, said what people eat and drink is critical to improving one's overall health.

"What we want to do is make sure the nutrients we are getting in is what our body needs, so if we are getting a lot of empty calories and high sugar, high fats foods, a lot of times we’re not getting that nutrients in and our immunity is not being built up," Wilcox said. "The more nutrients and vitamins and minerals, proteins and healthy fats we’re getting in, we have more ability to fight off infections and diseases.”

She said foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean protein, beans and nuts help provide a variety that can play a big role in health and anti-inflammatory properties.

*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.

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