In recent weeks, researchers and doctors have seen a trend: an increasing number of hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients who are overweight.
Due to obesity, many other risk factors and complications become more common in these patients once admitted to the hospital with the coronavirus. That can include reduced pulmonary and cardiovascular functions, endocrine and metabolic complications, and other impacts to major organ function.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
Dr. Diego Maldonado, a pulmonologist with Cleveland Clinic Florida, said studies have shown obesity in nearly 40 percent of patients who are hospitalized and need intensive care.
"Around 40 percent of them are obese, which is a very high number," Maldonado said. "They are at a higher risk of intubation, mechanical ventilation and death," Maldonado said.
That is also on par with the rate he sees locally.
He explains people who are overweight have more inflammation already in their bodies. It can take them longer to shed the virus and recover.
"Just the fact that you have obesity, you have a higher risk for viral and bacterial infections," Maldonado said. "By losing 5 percent of your BMI, that reduces your risk significantly," Maldonado said.
WPTV obtained the list of all of the COVID-19 deaths on the Treasure Coast between the end of March and July 24, along with the contributory factors in their deaths.
An overwhelming majority of the deaths were people who had multiple and significant health issues.
Fourteen deaths listed obesity as one of multiple contributing factors to their COVID-19 death.
Two victims listed obesity as the only contributing factor, including for a 24-year-old man in Indian River County.
"If you are younger than 65, a young person, and you have not developed any complications from obesity yet such as diabetes, or hypertension, or chronic kidney disease, you think you're healthy otherwise, and the reality is you're not. COVID is just the proof of that," Maldonado said.