Obesity, a root co-cause of hypertension and diabetes, together a triumvirate of comorbid conditions fatally affecting patients infected with Covid-19, has become a critical factor in doctors assessing infected patients.
Dr Vijay Natarajan, chief executive officer (CEO), at the Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre (SUHRC) said, “We have reported cases in our hospital where the patient was morbidly obese. It is very uncommon that someone who is obese does not have diabetes or hypertension. Obesity causes sleep apnea which affects the lungs and so, causes breathing problems. Since the virus causing Covid-19 affects the lungs and respiratory system, it affects an obese person even more so.”
According to the integrated disease surveillance programme, Pune, of its 720 deaths related to Covid-19 in the Pune district, as of June 28, had 87 per cent or 623 deaths with an associated risk factor. Of that at least 44 have been diagnosed as being morbidly obese.
According to Dr Abhay Tidke, district surveillance officer, health department, Zilla Parishad, there were six cases in the month of April and 14 in May that showed obesity as a comorbid condition.
“In the month of April we reported six deaths in which obesity was a comorbid condition, then in May, it rose to 14, and then the remaining cases were reported in June. The common age group wherein obesity is reported is above the age of 37. In some cases, mild obesity can be ignored or neglected,” said Tidke.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines a person overweight when the body mass index (BMI) is greater than, or equal to 25; and obesity is for those for whose BMI is greater than or equal to 30.
BMI is a simple index of weight for height which is calculated in kilogrammes divided by the square of the height in metres (kg/ m2). It is the same formula for all ages and genders.
“We are reporting more number of critical patients who are obese. It becomes difficult to treat in this case and also recovery takes more time. Obesity is an underlying condition in patients who also report diabetes and hypertension,” said a doctor at Sassoon Hospital who didn’t wish to be named.
Dr Dileep Kadam, who heads the Pune task force said, “Obesity could cause obstructive sleep apnea which complicates treatment and recovery of the patients. When obesity combines with other health ailments like diabetes and hypertension, which is another common comorbid condition among those who lost their life due to Covid-19, it can further complicate the situation.”