After two years and billions of dollars of research and development, there’s still no foolproof cure for Covid.
Luckily, research shows that if you’re a healthy person under the age of sixty, your chances of being stricken, hospitalized, or killed by the disease are extremely low. Specifically, data from the CDC show that about 0.013% of 30-year olds who catch Covid have died with the disease (and not necessarily from it), whereas this number rises to 0.214% for 60-year olds and 2.836% for people aged 85 and over.
That is, if one million 30-year olds catch Covid, 130 of them will die with the disease, whereas nearly 29,000 out of a million 85-year olds would die.
What’s more, other research from the CDC shows that 95% of people who’ve died with Covid also had another serious medical condition, such as heart disease, the flu, or cancer (and on average, people who died with Covid had four additional comorbidities).
And so, many people can rightly dismiss Covid as “just another respiratory virus.”
What if they do have an underlying health condition like diabetes, heart disease, or chronic bronchitis, though?
Or, what if they’re healthy but want to make themselves as coof-proof as they possibly can?
What can and should they do?
Well, by now, scientists have collected and analyzed a terrific amount of data on Covid and have a good understanding of the key lifestyle factors that increase and decrease the risk of catching a bad case of the latest variant.
And in this article, you’ll learn the top nine.
Table of Contents
For example, in one study conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford, researchers parsed the medical records of 6,910,695 people and found that those with a BMI of 23 or below had the lowest risk of admission to a hospital or intensive care or dying.
They also found that the risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid increased in lockstep with BMI. Specifically, someone with a BMI of 25 had a 10% higher risk of hospitalization and a 20% higher risk of landing up in the ICU than someone with a BMI of 23, and these numbers shot up to 35 and 70%, respectively, for someone with a BMI of 30.
Now, BMI is an imperfect barometer because lean, muscular people register inappropriately high (my BMI is about 25, for example, and I have ~40 pounds more muscle than the average person and a lot less body fat), but the point still stands:
If you’re overweight, one of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of being pasted by Covid is to trim down.
And if you’d like to learn more about how to diet properly to lose weight safely and sustainably, check out this article. And if you’d like even more specific advice about how many calories, how much of each macronutrient, and which foods you should eat to lose weight quickly, take the Legion Diet Quiz.
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For instance, in one study conducted by scientists at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, researchers found that people who were consistently inactive (did 0-to-10 minutes of exercise per week) had a three-fold increased risk of hospitalization with Covid versus people who consistently exercised at least 150 minutes per week (just 20 minutes per day) and a nearly five-fold increased risk of dying with Covid.
And what happens if you exercise more than 150 minutes per week, which is a bare minimum for maintaining health and wellbeing?
While there’s no data on how much each additional minute of exercise beyond this point bolsters your immune defenses, it’s likely that the more you exercise (up to a very high point), the lower your risk of succumbing to Covid.
For instance, the latest activity guidelines from the WHO recommend people aged 18-to-64 get at least 150-to-300 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75-to-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity plus at least two strength training sessions per week. And again, this is considered a minimum threshold for staving off disease, not necessarily an ideal dose for optimizing health, mood, vitality, physical performance, and body composition.
Chronic sleep deprivation is devastating to our health and wellbeing, so it’s no surprise that studies routinely show that people who sleep more are at a lower risk of ill health from immune-related disease like Covid than people who sleep less.
And if you find it difficult to drop off in the evening, here are several ways to improve your “sleep hygiene”:
- Avoid coffee, nicotine, alcohol, and other stimulants four-to-six hours before you go to bed (or longer if necessary).
- Make your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark.
- Don’t eat or drink too much before bed.
- Create a relaxing pre-bed routine that might include things like reading, stretching, or bathing.
- If you can’t sleep, get out of bed and do something quiet and relaxing until you feel the urge to fall asleep, like reading, listening to music, or solving puzzles. Once you feel sleepy, go back to bed.
- Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Only use your bedroom for two things: sleep and sex.
One study conducted by scientists at Shenzhen Mental Health Centre made headlines recently when it suggested that consuming red and white wine and champagne reduces your risk of dying from Covid, while consuming beer, cider, and spirits increases your risk.
Winos rejoiced, but what the scientists and media outlets failed to mention was that any link between wine drinking and reduced risk from Covid was correlative, not causative (which, by the way, is almost always the case when you see paradoxical outcomes like this).
That is, the researchers noticed that people who drank red and white wine and champagne tended to have a lower risk of dying from Covid, but that doesn’t mean the plonk deserves credit.
This is particularly apropos to Covid, as the lockdowns have caused many people to drink more alcohol to cope with the fear, loneliness, and depression, and those who increased their drinking the most tended to experience rougher Covid symptoms.
Thus, if you already drink moderately, giving up alcohol entirely is unlikely to reduce your risk of getting sick. That said, if you’re often teetering between “moderate” and “excessive” alcohol intake or are an unabashed boozer, cutting back will reduce your chances of getting shellacked by Covid.
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The best way to counteract stress is to find ways to relax, and here are a few evidence-based strategies to help quiet the noise and cool your jets:
- Change your perspective on stress: Research shows that our perception of stress as harmful is what really gives it teeth. That is, it’s possible that getting overly stressed about stress is what makes it harmful.
Studies show that we can consciously reappraise stressful situations—choose to look at them differently—and thereby deprive them of their destructive power.
A frustrating situation doesn’t have to be an excuse to rip your hair out. Instead, it can be viewed as an opportunity to exercise a virtue like patience or tolerance. Or an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work. Or to learn that you’re tougher than you thought.
- Listen to classical music: Next time you’re stressed, put on some slow, quiet classical music and before long you’ll be nestled in its soothing embrace.
Mozart can do more than just chill you out, too. Studies show that classical music sharpens your mind and engages your emotions and lowers blood pressure, lessens physical pain and depression, and helps you sleep better.
- Consume less media: Research shows that exposing yourself to a constant barrage of bad news, fearmongering, and morbid reminders of your mortality increases stress levels. (Well, I declare!)
While the media has always spotlighted tragedy and turmoil (“if it bleeds, it leads”), this bias has now reached gargantuan proportions. For instance, economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 87% of US news coverage on Covid has been negative, whereas only 54% of news coverage was negative in most other countries and 65% in scientific journals. Basically, most US news outlets embellish bad news (“cases are rising!”) and bury the good (“deaths and hospitalizations are falling”) to give the gloomiest impression possible.
If you don’t want to swear off media altogether, limiting yourself to one 15-to-20 minute bout of news browsing per day is a sensible compromise.
- Spend less time with tech: Research shows that the more people use and feel tied to their computers and cell phones, the more stressed they feel. In fact, overuse of technology has even been linked with various symptoms of poor mental health like depression.
Scientists aren’t certain as to exactly what causes this, but the relationship is unmistakable. The more time we spend with our devices, the worse our mental state becomes.
- Spend more time with people: Spending time with people, especially your nearest and dearest, is one of the best ways to settle your stress and extinguish your anxiety. So make seeing people in the flesh a priority, even if it’s a hassle.
Given the carnage that smoking causes on your respiratory health and immune function, it figures that many studies show a consistent, positive association between smoking and the risk of Covid-related death.
The good news is it doesn’t take long for cardiovascular health and respiratory function to begin improving once you quit. And if you’ve tried and failed in the past, here are three strategies that help you kick the habit:
- Using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
- Taking non-nicotine medications like varenicline or bupropion
- Seeking behavioral support like cognitive behavioral therapy
When your body gets infected by a virus such as SARS-CoV-2, your immune system creates a cascade of proteins, immune cells, and molecules such as lipid-derived mediators that rush to fight the infection.
To organize this molecular assault, your body uses the nutrients supplied by the food you eat as raw materials. And multiple studies show that the fewer vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you eat, the fewer there are available to mount a robust immune response, and the more likely you are to become severely ill.
Therefore, an easy way to shore up your body’s defenses is to eat a healthy diet, which includes . . .
- The right number of calories and enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat to maintain a healthy body composition
- Enough vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients to function well without the need for supplementation
- Enough water to stay hydrated
And while there are no hard and fast rules about how much of each food or food group to eat or not eat, a healthy diet also includes an abundance of whole, nutritious, relatively unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dairy, pulses, nuts, seeds, legumes, and plant oils.
A good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least 2-to-3 servings of fruit per day and 3-to-5 servings of vegetables per day, with additional whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds based on your preferences and calorie needs.
Just a few years ago, vitamin D was known as the “bone vitamin,” and even today many physicians still believe it’s mainly needed for bone health.
While this is true, having insufficient vitamin D levels also increases your risk of many types of disease, including heart disease, stroke, some cancers, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, tuberculosis, and even Covid.
For example, in one study conducted by scientists at Galilee Medical Center, researchers found that people with a vitamin D deficiency were 14 times more likely to become severely ill with Covid than people who had adequate levels of vitamin D.
What’s more, the researchers found that the mortality rate among people who had sufficient vitamin D levels was 2.3%, but this rose to 25.6% for people with a vitamin D deficiency.
Aside from supplementing (more on this next), one of the best ways to keep D levels topped off is spending time outdoors in the sun.
A good place to start is spending 30 minutes per day outside. This is enough to produce a little extra vitamin D and lower your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health. That said, if you live in cold, northerly climes or you’re bundled up against the cold (and shielded against the sun), supplementation is the answer.
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There are a few supplements that appear to lessen the severity of Covid for some people, though, and these are . . .
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Research shows that fish oil reduces systemic inflammation and thus may help to minimize the likelihood of ill health and death from Covid. If you want a high-potency, molecularly distilled fish oil with added vitamin E, try Triton.
- Vitamin C and D and selenium: Studies show that maintaining high levels of vitamin C and D and selenium lowers your risk of becoming severely ill with Covid. If you want a multivitamin that contains clinically effective doses of vitamin C and D and selenium, as well as 28 other ingredients designed to enhance your health and mood and reduce stress, fatigue, and anxiety, try Triumph.
- L-citrulline: L-citrulline increases the production of a gas known as nitric oxide that widens blood vessels and improves blood flow. While the research is very much in its infancy, early signs are that L-citrulline may help to lessen the severity of Covid symptoms such as breathlessness and chest pain. If you want a 100% natural L-citrulline supplement that also contains five other ingredients designed to enhance energy, mood, and focus, increase strength and endurance, and reduce fatigue, try Pulse.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is a natural pigment found in fruits and vegetables that acts as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic in the body. Some studies suggest quercetin may slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the body by preventing it from infecting new cells, which may decrease symptom severity and length of infection.
- Zinc: Due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties, several studies have tentatively suggested that zinc may provide an additional “shield” against infection with and illness from Covid.
- Melatonin: Research shows that the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects of melatonin may reduce the severity of Covid symptoms when used as an early treatment.
- Nigella Sativa: Preliminary research shows that nigella sativa, or ”black cumin seed,” may make recovery from Covid quicker in people with mild infection.
- Antiviral mouthwash: Studies show that rinsing your mouth with antiviral mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine, or cetylpyridinium chloride may reduce the SARS-CoV-2 viral load in saliva, which may reduce your risk of spreading the virus and speed up your recovery time.
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