Phil Day By Superintendent Pharmacist Published:

There’s much the scientific community is still learning about the coronavirus, how it’s transmitted, and its symptoms. However, a new Public Health England (PHE) report indicates that being excessively overweight or obese can increase the risk of death or severe illness after contracting COVID-19. Here, we’re going to take a closer look at this, and give you some advice to help kickstart your healthy revolution.

The effects of excess weight and COVID-19 

As the PHE report highlights, being seriously overweight puts COVID-19 sufferers at a greater risk of death, or hospitalisation. The evidence which has been sourced from both the UK and international community shows that the greater your body mass index (BMI), the greater the risk to your health if you contract the disease.

It’s important to note that having excess weight doesn’t increase your chances of catching the coronavirus – just the severity of the symptoms if you do catch it.

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered to be healthy. One study featured in the report found that for those people with a BMI of between 35 and 40, the risk of death after contracting COVID-19 increased by 40% when compared to people who aren’t carrying any excess weight. With a BMI over 40, the risk is increased to 90%. If you want to work out your BMI, the NHS have a handy calculator you can use. 

Obesity in the UK

In England, 63% of adults are overweight or obese. The most severely affected groups are those aged between 55 and 74, those living in deprived areas, and certain ethnic communities. The pandemic is yet another cause for concern in the UK’s ongoing battle against obesity, which is the driving force behind a new Government campaign encouraging millions to lose weight and therefore reduce the risk posed by COVID-19.

Better Health; what’s it all about?

There is a new campaign which forms part of the UK Government’s strategy to help tackle obesity. It aims to encourage adults to make changes in their lives which will help them on the road to achieving a healthier weight, as well as avoiding other more serious related conditions such as diabetes. It’s hoped that the enforced change of life caused by the coronavirus will give many of us the chance to ‘reset’ our unhealthy habits and make a positive change.

The campaign is called Better Health, and it brings together a suite of tools to help people get more active and eat a healthier diet. There’s also a new free smartphone app which educates and supports people through the NHS’s 12 week weightloss plan.  

Top tips for living a healthier lifestyle

Although getting started can often feel overwhelming, there are simple things you can do to help live a healthier lifestyle. Take small steps but be consistent.  

  1. Try to eat a balanced diet. Even small changes such as not taking sugar in your tea or swapping chocolate for a healthier snack can help over time. The NHS Eat Well campaign is a great place to start. Also talk to a family member or friend as their support can often be instrumental in successfully losing weight.
  2. Plan ahead. Why not try doing a meal plan for the week, so you’re not caught short? This will also help you make a focused shopping list, reducing the chances of being tempted by sweet treats in the other aisles! You should also consider putting exercise in your diary so it doesn’t get forgotten. A brisk walk, taken every day, will do you the world of good over time.
  3. Get some help! If you don’t know where to start when it comes to exercise you could seek out a local training session or a dedicated sports club. There are also weight loss communities such as Slimming World and Man V Fat which can help. 

If you feel that you have too much ‘life admin’ and struggle to find the time to exercise or plan, then Pharmacy2U could help, if you have a medical condition that needs a prescription medicine. Enjoy more time with our simple online service where you can get your prescriptions online and medicines delivered for free. Read more about our NHS repeat prescription service here