A BMI of 26-27 increases Covid-19 death risk by 25%

Johannesburg – Your age, vaccination status and weight are said to be critical factors in how one experiences Covid-19.

Petrie Marx,  a Product Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, said their statistics showed that the risk of death from the deadly virus increases exponentially when the body mass index (BMI) increases.

He added that while we cannot control our age, we do have some control over our vaccination status and BMI.

Marx said that vaccination significantly reduces hospitalisation and death and is critical in helping to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“While we acknowledge that vaccination remains a choice, we call on South Africans to consider the medically proven benefits of protecting their own health and that of others by getting vaccinated and to focus on making better health decisions to manage their BMI.”

He explained that a BMI of 21-25 is considered healthy for an adult.

“Our evidence shows that those with a marginally overweight BMI (26-27) have a 25% increase in Covid-19 death risk, relative to those with a ‘healthy’ BMI.  Worryingly, this risk increases to 70% for those with an obese BMI (30-31).

He said though that a BMI of 26-27 would not normally be cause for concern from an insurance underwriting perspective.

“A high BMI also often correlates with an increased chance of lifestyle diseases, like Type 2 diabetes, which can mean a more dangerous outcome from contracting Covid-19, especially if the person is unvaccinated.

“Lifestyle diseases have always been concerning – Covid-19 has made them even more so.

“ We urge all South Africans to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so already.

“Evidence from sound and credible international research show the clear correlation between getting vaccinated and a reduced risk of Covid-19-linked death.

If you have a higher BMI, this is even more of an imperative. It’s the easiest way to protect yourself,” said Marx.

Peppie Janse van Rensburg and Megan Pentz-Kluyts, registered dietitians at Blaauwberg Dietitians said that instead of concentrating on BMI alone, everyone should focus on developing strategies to have a healthier attitude towards food and your body image.

These are their seven steps to a healthier you:

  1. Use commute time to be active as a family. If you’re working from home, use the time that you would have used to commute to be active as family or with friends. Go for a walk before dinner or start the day with an online exercise or yoga session.
  2. Make a dedicated workspace and stick to a routine. Aim to follow your normal work and sleep pattern. Sleep is important when trying to maintain a healthy BMI. Also, try standing while working.
  3. Take time away from the desk, especially lunch time. Instead of eating in front of your computer screen, eat your meal outside in the garden. Don’t wait until you are extremely hungry. Take your lunch at regular time intervals. Stand up every hour, on the hour and stretch. Schedule a 15-minute break to walk around the block or do some stretches/ yoga/Pilates in the garden.
  4. Do meal prep. Do a bit of meal preparation by adding ingredients for healthier lunches to your shopping list. Allow for time to prepare dinners, instead of ordering-in or getting take-aways.
  5. Pack your fridge with healthy options. Stack your fridge with nutritional snacks to nibble on. For example, raw nuts with seeds mix, vegetable sticks with hummus, roasted chickpeas, plain yoghurts and fresh fruits.
  6. Drink plenty of water. Keep a water bottle at your desk. Aim for 6-8 glasses of water per day. Flavour it with cucumber, lemon, mint. You can even download a free ‘hydration app’ to prompt you to keep drinking.
  7. Stay connected; ask friends and family to join you.  Following a healthier lifestyle is so much easier if you don’t have to do it alone!

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