Don’t Let Health Behavior Change Become Another COVID Casualty

Health Behaviors are Just as Important as Masks

The 2020 Simulation

“Casino Royale” Star Trek The Next Generation

Except, instead of BAR, Bells, and Cherries, we pull the handle only to have the wheels stop on increasingly worse COVID statistics pulled straight from the Hopkins COVID Dashboard. Wake up. Pull the handle. Wheels spin. Wheels stop. COVID cases get worse. Where’s the payout?

The COVID slot machine never pays out…

It’s going to get worse before it gets better. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments that we’re experiencing a “surge upon a surge” is right on point. Hospitals are full, clinicians are burned out, cities are going back into lockdown. As of this writing, 26 states states still have optional mask rules.

Big Guns

Missing In Action

And don’t think this is a rarified segment of the population. 60% of of people in the US are affected by one or more of these conditions-conditions that are eminently preventable. These chronic conditions are also pandemics — they’ve become so ubiquitous that their familiarity has made it difficult to muster the same level of concern. Dying from obesity is a “slow burn” compared to dying from COVID respiratory failure. Pandemic “fatigue” is real whether the pandemic is metabolic or viral.

Medications alone won’t save you. Taking Lipitor to lower your cholesterol while still eating like crap most of the week is like pushing on the “metabolic” gas and the brake at the same time.

Motiv Health Inc., Copyright 2020

Underlying Conditions and COVID

All of this matters because COVID thrives in those with pre-existing conditions. If you are obese and diabetic you’re more likely to have serious complications like severe symptoms, hospitalization, and respiratory failure, not to mention long term effects after viral resolution.

Underlying Conditions Matter (CDC 2020)

Poor sleep, exercise, and diet directly stunt your immune system. Diseases like obesity are intrinsically inflammatory states. Expecting your immune system to fight COVID while it’s already annoyed by underlying chronic disease is a big ask.

Absent Messaging

CDC Statement is at best limp
COVID Guidelines don’t have much to say about health behaviors.

It shouldn’t fall to the shoulders of stand up comedians like Joe Rogan and Bill Maher to spearhead this message. On his podcast Rogan surfaced the point of health behaviors in his conversation with Yale physician-scientist Nicholas Christakis who promised to pass the message up the COVID chain of influence. Personally, I’m running out of patience with the medical community’s long standing habit of replacing conversations of health behavior change with prescription pads. Public health officials need to be extremely clear in their messaging about the important role of health behaviors in preventing COVID complications. Doctors who have a platform need to echo the message of health lifestyle choices in the same sentence as masks and vaccines.

Take Action

Virtual care and telehealth are now mainstream. Home fitness, wellness, and coaching platforms are available and affordable over your smartphone. Sign up for one. Your nutrition is the most important “drug” you take everyday. Combine fruits, vegetables, high protein, and low calorie diets with consistent physical activity and exercise and you create an environment that trains your immune system to special forces standards. Prioritize physical activity between zoom calls. Buy and use a set of resistance bands for low inpact training. They’re cheap and they work. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day, even just walking, can make a difference. Sleep 6–9 hours per night. Set a sleep time and stick to it. Throw away everything you own that has high fructose corn syrup. Rid the pantry of junk and replace it with vegetables, fruit, and protein. Cut the portion sizes and drop the donuts.

We live in a digital health world. We have wrist worn health trackers and access to virtual health coaching at our fingertips via smartphones. There are free resources everywhere online. Pinterest has poster after poster of healthy snack options and recipes along with instructions on how to exercise.

Take Control

Protect yourself. Boost your immune system and treat your chronic conditions effectively by pursuing healthy behaviors DAILY. You are not a helpless statistic. Use this pandemic as an opportunity to explore and build your health self efficacy. And, help others. Setup zoom workouts with your friends for support if you have to. Do whatever it takes. You have the time. Masks, social distancing, vaccines, and health behaviors are the fundamental weapons we can use to survive this.

Physician, Digital Health Entrepreneur, Troublemaker

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