Obesity is one of the underlying conditions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

An adult with a body mass index (BMI) in the 25 to 29 range is considered overweight; adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.

Obesity is a risk factor for a number of other serious diseases and conditions that themselves are independent risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19. The best defense against the virus is getting a COVID vaccine and booster. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in people with underlying conditions like obesity. Also, by achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce your risk for chronic diseases and the more serious effects of COVID-19.

COVID and Obesity

Having obesity can triple your risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19 infection, according to the CDC. In addition to being linked to impaired immune function, obesity can decrease lung capacity and make breathing difficult. As COVID-19 primarily causes respiratory symptoms, getting infected with the virus can make respiratory symptoms caused specifically by obesity more complicated.

People who are obese, compared to those with a normal or healthy weight, are at increased risk for serious diseases and conditions including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Sleep apnea and other breathing problems
  • Poor cholesterol levels
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)

Both adults and children who have obesity are at risk for worse outcomes from COVID-19.

Staying Safe

Once you are vaccinated, you can maximize your protection against COVID-19 by continuing to:

  • Practice social distancing (stay at least six feet away from others whenever possible)
  • Practice good hand hygiene (wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol)
  • Wear a mask and ask anyone around you to wear one, too
  • Take your elevated risk for severe illness from COVID-19 into consideration when deciding whether to go out (avoid crowded areas as much as possible)
  • Take all your medications and treatments as prescribed
  • Make sure you get the health care you need (particularly when an emergency arises)

Staying Healthy

Whether you are obese or overweight, it is especially important now to take care of your health. Developing and maintaining healthy habits can help boost your immune system and decrease your risk for other underlying conditions. Gradually, you can improve your overall health by eating a healthy diet, being physically active, getting good sleep, and finding effective ways to cope with stress. Remember, even modest weight loss can make a difference.

Learn more about how to maintain these healthy habits during the pandemic:

Updated 1/31/2022

UMMS provides our expert-reviewed content to keep our community informed. When sharing this copyrighted content, please link to our site so that critical updates are reflected.