Three factors that could increase your risk of long Covid by up to 50%

Long Covid: Dr Sara Kayat discusses impact on children

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Long Covid has been defined by the World Health Organisation as an illness that occurs within months of the onset of COVID-19 and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Symptoms range from extreme tiredness to joint pain, which has a significant impact on a person’s life in most cases. According to the findings of nine separate studies, having a raised BMI may be an important risk factor for these lingering symptoms.

In the latest study, Long Covid was defined as symptoms that went on for longer than four weeks post-infection.

The data analysis from more than 31,000 participants in nine studies revealed that a higher BMI was associated with greater odds of COVID-19 infection.

More precisely, the risk increased by seven percent higher with every 5kg/m increase in BMI, whereas the risk of Long Covid increased by 20 percent for every 5kg/m in BMI.

People who were overweight or obese had 20 percent and 36 percent greater odds of long Covid, respectively.

The studies focussing on blood sugar levels and diabetes revealed no association with COVID-19 or long Covid.

Doctor Anika Knuppel, from the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing, at University College London, is due to present the findings at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes Annual Meeting in Sweden.

The expert said: “Early in the pandemic research identified diabetes and obesity as risk factors for becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

“And we know that many people living with type 2 diabetes are also carrying excess weight.”

Because Covid infection and long Covid associations with categories BMI were not all statistically significant, it could not be established whether these associations were due to chance.

What’s more, due to the observational nature of the study, it was unable to deduce any conclusions about the link between BMI and the risk of Covid.

Doctor Knuppel added: “Our early findings support the idea that obesity-related mechanisms may be responsible for the excess risks of COVID-19 associated with diabetes, rather than high blood sugar per se.

“[They] suggest a link of adiposity with COVID-19 infection and long COVID-19 even after taking into account socio-demographic factors and smoking.

“We need to further explore what makes people with overweight and obesity at risk of worse outcomes and how this relates to severe cases.”

Similar research conducted by King’s College London earlier this year identified other health conditions linked to complications from Covid.

The examination of anonymised data from 1.2 million primary health records, involving more than 45,000 participants, found two other pre-existing health conditions significantly increase the likelihood of long Covid.

It revealed that pre-existing poor mental health increased the likelihood of reporting Long Covid by 50 percent, while asthma was associated with a 32 percent increase.

Separate research by the COVID Symptoms Study app has found that having multiple early symptoms at the onset of infection may increase the risk of the condition 3.5 times.

In fact, those who had more than five symptoms during the first week of illness were more likely to suffer ongoing complications, compared to those with fewer symptoms.

The vaccine Alliance Gavi explained: “Many researchers believe that Long Covid may not be a single syndrome.

” […] It is possible that different groups are more or less at risk of different types of persistent symptoms”.

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