The Coronavirus pandemic and associated COVID-19 infection has been teaching us some hard lessons. A lot of what we think to be true has yet to be confirmed. One thing we are certain about is that comorbidities (underlying health issues) are involved in over 80% of deaths attributed to COVID-19. 

What are the most prevalent comorbidities? As you can see from the chart below, they range from hypertension to heart failure. The top four have one thing in common – they all can be managed to some degree with diet and exercise. 

(https://www.the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/220457/coronavirus-updates/comorbidities-rule-new-yorks-covid-19-deaths)

As I talk about in my new book, Absolutely F&cking Amazing – Living a Life You Love, a sedentary lifestyle is the second leading cause of preventable death in our country behind tobacco use. COVID-19 has, unfortunately, confirmed that these conditions can be deadly. 

A study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2010 warned of the health risks associated with our increasingly sedentary lifestyle.1 It pointed out how our activities have changed over the last 50 years which has led to an increase in obesity and diabetes. Both of these conditions lead to secondary diseases such as high cholesterol and cardiac disease. 

A recent CDC health report stated that “despite progress in some areas, our nation falls far short of healthy physical-activity and dietary-consumption levels, leaving more than a third of adults obese. Obesity costs the U.S. about $147 billion in medical expenses each year.” 2

Diet and exercise have long been known to have a positive effect on these conditions. Some people are actually able to completely resolve their health issues using these tools. So why don’t we all eat better and exercise more? Simple – habit. 

We’re such creatures of habit even when confronted with the evidence and knowledge of the risks we still find it almost impossible to change. 

There is hope, however. We can change habits – it’s not impossible. The key is to create the possibility for choice, the ability to choose in the moment to eat the healthier selection or exercise when we really don’t feel like it. Mindfulness and meditation help us develop these skills. More importantly we can teach our children these tools, along with establishing regular exercise routines and eating a healthy diet. 

Back to what we’re dealing with right now COVID-19 has given us access to the stark reality of how deadly these comorbidities really are. Will this be enough for folks to change their routines and deal with these issues? Time will tell, right now I think I’ll go for a run……

References

1. Owen N, Sparling P, Healy G, Dunstan D, Matthews C. Sedentary Behavior: Emerging Evidence for a New Health Risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-1141. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0444

2. Cdc.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/healthreport/publications/Compendium.pdf. Published 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020.