What a difference a week makes… Last Sunday afternoon I returned home from racing in Fort Lauderdale, FL, began preparing for the week ahead and gain more understanding about the impact of COVID-19 on everyday life. This Sunday I returned home from a workout looking for the latest news after a crazy week of developments and found the New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, discuss aggressive actions his state was taking to mitigate the spread of the virus. I only caught the final 20 minutes of his press conference but I found his delivery to the point, easy to understand and consistent with what I had gathered as the overall goal for all the states in the U.S. – in the short-term (and being very fluid).
The Governor stated very directly, “take a deep breath, people are going to get sick.” He was responding to questions regarding physical distancing, shutting down and or limiting people in buildings, businesses, and gatherings. The next statement he made addressed those who were most vulnerable to illness and the reason why immediate changes needed to be implemented. “We’re talking about that vulnerable population – senior citizens, immune compromised, and underlying illnesses like the people who have passed away so far. Like those who have passed away from the flu. The operational problem is they are going to overpopulate the ICUs.” Thus, slow the spread of the virus to be able to handle the volume of those sick not all coming to medical centers at the same time.
This again validated my understanding of the short-term approach. I may be off as this is changing by what seems to be the minute but I think the Governor explained the situation quite well.
When the Governor referred to, “immune compromised,” that was something I had learned a lot about over the last several years and was assuming the linkage here was consistent with what I came to understand about our immune system and its ability to either help or hurt us in to fight off sickness and chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, alzheimer’s, autism, and the list goes on.
I covered this in depth in a previous blog, Chronic Illness & Inflammation Explored. To connect what I wrote there as it relates to this situation is that every time a person consumes an animal product they are causing immediate inflammation to their body that remains for about 4-5 hours. Dr. Michael Greger does a fantastic job telling this story if you want more. If consuming animal products on a regular basis the body is in a state of constant inflammation causing damage to the gut lining and then the immune system. The damage to the immune system leads to higher risks of the assortment of chronic illnesses. An additional side effect of consuming regular amounts of animal products (Standard American Diet) for most people is weight gain. The connection to COVID-19 comes next.
During the week I listened to, Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) describe examples of the underlying illnesses and health problems the Governor was referencing. This is different globally by lifestyle choices made and he discussed how in the U.S. “there are series of risk factors to worry about that if they overlay on this disease are going to cause bad outcomes and we happen to be right at ground zero here in this country and that is obesity. We know that obesity is just like smoking in terms of its ability to really cause severe life threatening disease and 45% of our population today over the age of 45 in this country are obese or severely obese, men and women. One of the concerns we have is we’re going to see more of these what we call very serious and life threatening cases occur in our country because of different set of risk factors than what we saw in China.”
Another issue to have on the radar is the use of antibiotics on animals for growth promotion or increased feed efficiency that are then passed through to consumers but I’ll save that for a future in-depth post in the interest of length. In a nutshell as Dr. Neal Barnard noted in an interview in response to COVID-19 this week, Where Many Viruses Originate, “antibiotic resistance (in humans) due to this use is going to cause massive problems in the future.” They simply won’t work… The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 80% of antibiotics used globally are used on animals for the reasons listed above.
With the mass production and consumption of animal products these viruses and consequences will continue to rise over time. I was curious how this pandemic would compare to the the world’s and America’s number one annual killer, cardiovascular disease. It’s hard to find many estimates on total fatalities for COVID-19 but Dr. Osterholm was one of them. He estimates 480,000 deaths in the U.S. and that compares to 647,457 deaths last year of cardiovascular disease reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and that number is 17.9 million globally reported by WHO.
17.9 million people die each year from “a disease that doesn’t need to exist” as Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has countlessly stated. It is an astounding number and a number that would make you think we would have as much attention on as COVID-19 but just hasn’t been the case. This is something I have learned a lot about the influence of industry on our lives and lack of healthy actions we take regarding our own health. And I was right there ready to be one of those annual figures over five years ago…
What can we do? I will personally limit my exposure as recommended. As I realized with my own health transformation years ago it was about taking accountability for my health. I found my beliefs in nutrition were extremely off base. I was clueless. I educated myself and encourage you to educate yourself to make good decisions and live with the risks you are willing to take.
For me, moving to a whole foods plant-based lifestyle changed my life. My health has never been better, I reduced my risks of chronic illness dramatically and think my body would put up a good fight if I contracted the virus. I will control what I can control to put my body in the best position to live a long, healthy and active lifestyle.
I leave us with some resources on boosting our immune system function (eat more plants…#plantpower):
- Foods to Boost Your Immune System
- Boosting Immunity While Reducing Inflammation
- Boosting Immunity Through Diet
– Add Health to Your Life
Feature Blog Photo – Immune Boosting Powerhouse Acai Bowl via Raw Juce, Boca Raton