Why our risk of COVID-19 is our responsibility, not someone else’s.

Data from the United States and Europe shows that those with the highest risk of severe cases of COVID-19 and death from the virus are the elderly, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

If you are healthy, you have an extremely low risk of severe illness. Like really low.

If you’re dealing with one of the following conditions, you are not healthy and your risk of a severe case of COVID-19, if you get infected, is much greater:

  • Overweight and obesity 
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Cancer

Inflammation and a suppressed immune system are universal among all of these conditions. If you have two or three, things are likely a lot worse.

Technically, having Type I diabetes also raises risk if it isn’t properly managed. But type I is usually genetic, unless it’s developed from extreme cases of type II diabetes. Provided type I is properly managed, it shouldn’t affect someone’s risk.

Cancer is caused by a variety of reasons, some of which are lifestyle-related. The rest of the conditions are much more likely to be the result of lifestyle choices.

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If pre-existing conditions open the door for SARS-CoV-2, why aren’t we putting more attention on those conditions?

Over the past several decades, pharmaceuticals have helped people live somewhat normal lives, while they continue to make the same lifestyle choices that led to the conditions that led to the medications.

For example, insulin or metformin helps people live longer while still being able to eat the foods that brought on their diabetes, to begin with.

The problem is, even with medications, your body and its systems don’t function right. As a result, your immune system can’t combat diseases, such as COVID-19, like it should be able to.

COVID-19 isn’t the real risk to your health. Diabetes, overweight and obesity, inflammation, and a lack of overall fitness are the real risks. SARS-CoV-2 just exploits the way those risks make us vulnerable. 

The good news is, the death rate related to SARS-CoV-2 is nowhere near what was suggested at the beginning of the pandemic. The bad news is, nobody seems to be telling the public they need to immediately address any preventable health conditions they have.

There’s more attention on masks than a healthy metabolism. It makes no sense.

We need more candor to change the culture

The only way to wake people up to the risks of poor lifestyle and nutrition choices is to be honest. 

We have to change the perception of lifestyle diseases, which means we need to communicate with a little more candor, even of some people choose to be offended by it.

If we can’t talk about the stuff that harms us and our society because it makes someone feel bad, we remove the emotions that spur people to change.

Before we can change, we need to wrestle through the reality of our current state, and the pain that precedes the willingness to change.

This goes against the culture of safety that’s crept into our society over the past decade. In a culture of safety, those who might say or do something that another person could find offensive gets silenced.

A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.

The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt

If public health is a priority, why not prime the public on health-promoting habits instead of fostering fear?

These lifestyle diseases cost the healthcare system enough already. Now, COVID-19 is yet another disease that puts those with these conditions at greater risk.

What if we focused on fixing these problems instead? What if we put more focus on:

How much influence could the public health organizations have if they put the same kind of money and focus they’ve put into COVID-19, into programs that get people to take these actions?

What if, instead of priming people with fearful phrases like “Stay home. Stay Safe. We’re in this together,” they started repeating “lift weights, get lean, sleep at least seven hours tonight, eat a healthy, high-protein diet.”

Wear a mask if you want or need to, but please get your health in order. The mask might lower the chance you’ll come across a virus, but only a healthy body will protect you when you do.

It comes down to personal responsibility

There are plenty of places to find fault on this topic: businesses that don’t allow for time to exercise, food companies that produce products that lead to health problems, the government for pushing dietary guidelines since 1977 that had little science to support them.

However, our diets and lifestyles are our responsibility, as is our health. 

My friend, the late Charles Poliquin, had a more direct way to state this:

Nobody ever got mugged by a donut.

Charles Poliquin

With or without a vaccine, there will be another virus that comes along at some point. Those who have the healthiest bodies have the best chance of warding it off. 

While we can’t do anything about our age, which is certainly a factor in our risk, we can do a lot to affect our health and immune function, no matter what our age is.

I am 100% responsible for my health.

Will you take responsibility for yours? Will you kindly, but with candor, encourage your friends and family to take responsibility for theirs as well?