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COVID-19 deaths linked to unhealthy lifestyles

In a new study from the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, experts have identified a link between unhealthy lifestyles and COVID-19 deaths. The researchers found that a higher risk of severe COVID-19 infection was associated with obesity, sedentary behavior, diabetes, and smoking.

“Tragically, the United States (US) surpassed one million documented deaths due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A convincing association between unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and poorer outcomes associated with COVID-19 infection has already been demonstrated and communicated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in public health messaging,” wrote the researchers.

“The US is experiencing not a pandemic, but a syndemic, specifically an unhealthy lifestyle behaviors–chronic diseases–COVID-19 syndemic. This syndemic has almost certainly significantly contributed to the more than one million deaths the United States has experienced during the pandemic.”

Study senior author Dr. Carl Lavie noted that experts have long been aware of the link between increased mortality rates and unhealthy lifestyles. “Individuals who live sedentary lives with poor eating habits and multiple chronic conditions are always more prone to negative health outcomes.”

The researchers analyzed geographic maps of the United States focusing on COVID-19 deaths. They compared this data with lifestyle behaviors, obesity, and chronic conditions, and a clear pattern emerged.

“The reality of this comparison should be quite eye-opening for many,” said Dr. Lavie. “The only way to combat the syndemic we are experiencing is to promote healthy lifestyles and address the health needs of all, especially those in underserved communities who have been disproportionately impacted by poor outcomes related to chronic conditions and COVID-19.”

“At this time, it is important not only to look ahead but also to reflect on challenges faced and patterns that have emerged during the pandemic,” wrote the study authors. 

“Perhaps, as we reflect on the now more than one million lives lost in the United States and apparent differences in mortality rates across states, lessons can be learned from comparing similar mapping patterns for other major health issues we face.”

The study is published in the American Journal of Medicine.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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