April 21, 2024

The risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease over a lifetime is affected by one

According to a study headed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the risk of long COVID was about half as high in women who followed most aspects of a healthy lifestyle, such as maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, regularly exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a high-quality diet, and drinking alcohol in moderation, as compared to women who did not follow any of these practises.

“Long COVID has created a serious public health burden with ongoing waves of COVID-19. Andrea Roberts, a senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and the study’s senior author, said, “Our findings raise the possibility that adopting more healthy behaviours may reduce the risk of developing long COVID.”

On Monday, an online version of JAMA Internal Medicine published the study.

Long COVID, which is defined as having COVID-19 symptoms four weeks or more after initial SARS-CoV-2 infection, is thought to affect anywhere from 8 million to 23 million Americans. Fatigue, fever, and other respiratory, cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal symptoms may be present.

More than 32,000 female nurses participated in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and their data was analysed. The nurses reported their lifestyle habits in 2015 and 2017, and their history of SARS-CoV-2 infection was collected between April 2020 and November 2021.

Over the course of that time period, over 1,900 people were infected with COVID-19. Out of these, 44% were diagnosed with chronic COVID. Long-term COVID risk was reduced by 49% in women who had five or more healthy lifestyle factors compared to those who had none. Among the six modifiable lifestyle factors, the strongest associations were found between a healthy weight and getting enough sleep (seven to nine hours daily). In addition, the results showed that even among women who developed long-term COVID, those who led healthier lifestyles before infection were 30% less likely to experience symptoms severe enough to cause functional impairment.

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An unhealthy lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation, both of which in turn have been linked to an increased risk of long COVID, as the authors point out.

Over the past few decades, medical research has piled up in favour of the idea that living a healthy lifestyle has positive effects on one’s well-being. Seventy percent of Americans are overweight, and thirty percent of adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. Research fellow in the Department of Nutrition and study author Siwen Wang hypothesised that simple lifestyle changes like getting enough sleep could help prevent long-term COVID.

In addition to Yanping Li, Yiyang Yue, Changzhen Yuan, Jorge Chavarro, and Shilpa Bhupathiraju, there were a total of eight authors from the Harvard Chan School.

This research was funded by NIH NICHD grant 3R01HD094725-02S1. The Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness Evergrande COVID-19 Response Fund Award, the National Institutes of Health’s Grants U01HL145386, R24ES028521, U01 CA176726, R01 CA67262, and R01 HD057368, and the Harvard Chan School’s Dean’s Fund for Scientific Advancement Acceleration Award.

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