Obesity: Another Serious Risk Factor For The Flu

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Researchers have discovered disturbing news concerning obesity and various strains of influenza, including H1N1 flu.  This is yet one more heath concern when it comes to obesity and those who are extremely overweight.  Studies show people who are more than just a few pounds overweight may be at a higher risk for the flu.  Not only is this a serious health concern, but in some cases it could even be deadly.  Los Angeles news reports indicate that obesity was determined to be a contributing risk factor in 2 of the first 3 flu related deaths in 2011.

With obesity already being a major health concern, obese individuals have yet another medical condition that they are at serious risk for. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said their 2010 data showed an increase in the number of patients with symptoms related to influenza.  The current flu season creates cause for concern and a potential health risk for many individuals, especially if they are overweight or suffer from obesity.  

Bases for Findings

The Clinical Infectious Diseases study provides medical bases for the findings on risk factors related to H1N1 and other flu strains.  Obesity is a well known contributing risk factor when it comes to medical conditions like: cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.  Obesity’s connection to the flu became more visible following the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic.  Researchers began examining flu-related complications more closely and searching for any possible risk factors. An important variable that they began to notice was the weight and overall body mass of the subjects.  The standard format used to determine how much body fat a person has can be determined by using your height, weight and gender.  This is your body mass index (BMI). 

One study of over 500 hospitalized flu patients was conducted by Clinical Infectious Diseases.  The study took into account the patient’s BMI.  Half of the hospitalized patients were not just overweight, but they had a BMI of 30 or more.  This put them in the classification of obesity.  The study concluded that those patients with a body mass index of more than 40 were three times more likely to die than those patients with a normal body mass index.  Researchers say more studies are necessary to completely understand why obesity is among the risk factors related to influenza.  They believe that vitamin D plays an important role.  This is because the evidence shows that obese people have lower serum levels of vitamin D than those who are not overweight.

CDC Recommends Vaccination

Major emphasis is being placed on the need for regular flu vaccinations, particularly in largely populated cities like Los Angeles, California.  This is especially since the January 2011 flu related deaths of a 48-year-old obese man and a 29-year-old obese woman in Los Angeles.  The CDC recommends that Americans be vaccinated, starting at the age of 6 months (when no pre-existing reasons or conditions exist to withhold the influenza vaccine).  They provide a range of suggestions on preventing and fighting influenza.

The findings about obesity and risk factors related to the flu warrants additional advice to those who are extremely overweight.  Start taking steps to eat healthier.   Learning to prepare healthy recipes and healthy cooking methods can start you on your way to eating healthy.  Understand that simple routines like stretching and walking daily are the keys to a healthier way of living.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, so realize that these needed changes may take some time.  You can increase your efforts as you get more comfortable with your new eating and exercise routine.  Proper eating, exercise and weight loss can help strengthen your immune system, which in turn, can help prevent the flu.  If you do happen to display flu-like symptoms, be sure to see your health care professional right away.  This will allow you to get diagnosed and treated as quickly as possible.  Early treatment is a crucial element in preventing the spread of the dangerous H1N1 flu, as well as other flu strains during the current flu season.    


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