Healthy lifestyle a powerful defense against virus

HARLINGEN — Break a sweat, eat right and get plenty of sleep.

Medical professionals and fitness enthusiasts say healthy living can mount a powerful defense against COVID-19.

“Exercise, eating well, and keeping excess weight off is more critical now than possibly anytime preceding,” said Dr. Christopher Romero, internal medicine specialist at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

Adequate exercise to boost the immune system doesn’t require a gym membership or pricey exercise equipment. Walking, jogging, or riding a bike will serve the purpose well.

“It’s been shown that even just walking on a regular basis improved the lung function in patients who have COPD,” Romero said. “Patients that are already suffering from chronic diseases, they can improve their overall health and fitness. It can potentially improve their outcome if they do come down with COVID-19.”

An adequate exercise regimen doesn’t require a great deal of time, said Jun Ellorimo, a physical therapist and fitness enthusiast.

“There needs to be a push of people being fit and healthy,” Ellorimo said. “As we exercise, even 30 to 45 minutes at least three times a week, whether they want yoga, they want running, they want lifting weights, they like bicycle, that will improve people’s immune system.”

A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates, such as sweet breads, hurts the body in any case. However, in the time of COVID-19, such unhealthy practices can adversely impact one’s health even more, experts say.

“Patients that have diabetes or uncontrolled blood sugar levels, they definitely have an impairment of their immune function,” Romero said.

Part of maintaining good health is weight loss. Obesity can increase the severity of a COVID-19 infection.

“It’s been very well documented that patients who are obese have a much higher risk of having severe disease requiring mechanical ventilation or even passing away from COVID-19,” Romero said.

So, how can obesity aggravate COVID-19 symptoms?

“This is due to multiple different factors,” Romero said. “Just having obesity leads to increased hypertension, diabetes and problems with cholesterol that make patients more prone to having strokes and heart attacks.”

Obesity also affects the way the body’s immune system functions and increases the likelihood of clots.

“These people are at high risk for having lung problems and heart problems as well as kidney problems,” Romero said. “So it’s a true setup for having much worse results from a COVID-19 infection.”

Adequate sleep is a must.

“There’s a very strong correlation between not only the quantity but the quality of sleep people get and their immune function,” Romero said.

Ellorimo said people should get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.

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