Having a high BMI linked to long Covid  

Having a high BMI linked to long Covid  
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A new study by the University of East Anglia finds that having a high BMI and being a woman puts you at a higher risk of long Covid.  

The new study is one of the largest studies long Covid in the UK. It showed that having a high BMI and being a woman increases the risk of long Covid. The research also suggests that people with long Covid are more likely to need additional and long-lasting NHS care compared to those who make a quick recovery.  

Long Covid is a relatively new condition, causing long-lasting symptoms of COVID-19. The most common symptoms are extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches. 

Prof Vassilios Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School,said: “Long Covid is a complex condition that develops during or after having covid, and it is classified as such when symptoms continue for more than 12 weeks. 

“Just over two million people in the UK are thought to suffer from long Covid and it affects people in different ways. Breathlessness, a cough, heart palpitations, headaches, and severe fatigue are among the most prevalent symptoms. 

“Other symptoms may include chest pain or tightness, brain fog, insomnia, dizziness, joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, loss of appetite, headaches, and changes to sense of smell or taste. 

“We wanted to find out what factors might make people more or less susceptible to developing long Covid.” 

Investigating factors that increase long Covid risk

The research team surveyed patients in Norfolk who had received a positive covid PCR test result in 2020. A total of 1,487 people took part in an online survey which covered long Covid symptoms. 

They found 774 participants experienced one long Covid symptom, showing a high self-reported prevalence. The team looked at factors including BMI, sex, medication use, other health conditions, and whether they lived in a deprived area.  

High BMI and long Covid link

The researchers found that having a high BMI and being a woman was linked to long Covid. This is vital information for building a profile for at-risk patients. 

The researchers published their findings in PLOS Global Public Health.  

Prof Vassiliou said: “We show that more than a half of the survey respondents who tested positive for Covid in the East of England during the first year of the pandemic went on to report long Covid symptoms. 

“All of these people were infected in the months before the Covid vaccination programme was rolled out and they suffered from numerous new symptoms that were not present before their Covid infection. 

“Interestingly, we found that more women than men had long Covid symptoms. We also found that having a higher BMI was linked with long Covid. 

“This is really important because information like this can be used to profile those people who are ‘at risk’ of developing long Covid. 

“We also found that people with long Covid were over three times more likely to use healthcare services than those who didn’t display long Covid symptoms.  

“We hope that our work will help policymakers plan local services and also inform the wider public of the scale of the long Covid pandemic,” he added. 

Dr Mark Lim, interim service director of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board, said: “When Covid-19 struck it was new to everyone. All clinicians and the wider health and care system worked extremely hard together to deal with the impacts of the virus and protect our people and communities. 

Our academic colleagues at the University of East Anglia have really helped local health and care organisations to identify local patients at risk of long Covid, helping us to do all we can to support them on their recovery journey.” 



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