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Long Covid linked with increased body weight : Study

Overweight women are more likely to experience symptoms of long Covid, according to a new research. The study from the University of East Anglia (UEA) shows that having a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) is linked with the condition, and that women are more likely to experience long Covid than men. It is one of the largest studies on long Covid in the UK, the study said. (Also read: Brain fog from long Covid: Know the symptoms, effective tips to deal with it)

The research, published in PLOS Global Public Health, also shows that people with long Covid were much more likely to need additional, and often lasting, care at the National Health System (NHS) than those who make a swift recovery.

“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,” said Professor Vassilios Vassiliou, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

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

“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,” said Vassiliou.

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

The research team surveyed patients in Norfolk, UK, 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 such as breathlessness, chest pain, fatigue, memory problems, and anxiety.

They found that more than half of the participants (774) were experiencing at least one long Covid symptom, showing a high self-reported prevalence.

Next, they looked to see what factors might make people more or less likely to suffer the condition by looking at the participants’ medical records.

Factors including BMI, sex, medication use, other health conditions, and whether they lived in a deprived area were taken into account.

“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,” said Vassiliou.

“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,” said Vassiliou.

“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,” said Vassiliou.

“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,” said Vassiliou.

“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,” said Vassiliou.

“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,” said Dr. Mark Lim, interim service director of the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board.

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