Tuesday, February 7th 2023, 7:10 am
Millions of Americans are struggling with debilitating fatigue, respiratory, heart, neurological and digestive symptoms after battling COVID-19. Now new research in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests taking some simple healthy steps could prevent symptoms of long COVID.
Researchers looked at six lifestyle factors--- diet, exercise, not smoking, healthy weight, adequate sleep and moderate alcohol consumption. Women who have five or six of these healthy building blocks are about half as likely to get long covid, compared to women who have one or two.
Andrea Roberts, PhD, Senior Study Author at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says, “We kind of made up the scenario of - what if Americans all had five or six of these healthy lifestyles instead of whatever they do have now. And we calculated that about 36% of long COVID cases would have been avoided.”
The study looks at data on more than 32,000 female nurses at the start of the pandemic and follows them for a year. Dr. Roberts says inflammation may play a critical role. “There have been a bunch of studies to suggest that people who have inflammation in their bodies are more likely to end up with long COVID than people who don't. And we know that a lot of these healthy lifestyle factors are related to reducing inflammation in your body.”
Having a healthy weight and getting seven to nine hours of sleep a day are the strongest lifestyle factors associated with lower long COVID risk. “I think sleep is something we really overlook oftentimes when we're talking about health. And we all know that, you know, our sleep habits maybe aren't the best,” says Dr. Roberts
Researchers say inflammation is also an indicator the immune system is not functioning quite right , which could be another explanation for how healthy lifestyle factors may affect Long COVID risk.
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