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What you need to know about COVID-19 and obesity

May 21, 2021

Obesity is linked to a number of health risks, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Experts are also finding that obesity is linked to severe COVID-19 complications and hospitalizations. A majority of patients that have been hospitalized, on a ventilator, or died due to COVID fell into the overweight or obese weight range. That’s why doctors and experts are recommending that individuals with obesity get the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible or pursue a weight-loss option, like bariatric surgery, to reach a normal weight.

Obesity risk factors linked to COVID-19

Obesity is prevalent in the United States, and the number is on the rise. This could be one of the reasons the rate of COVID cases is so high in the United States compared to other countries. According to Dr. Jay Sizemore of the Erlanger Hospital infectious disease unit, an individual with obesity is more likely to experience “immune dysregulation.” This means that their immune systems may not work as effectively as individuals that fall into a healthier weight range. Additionally, their lung capacity may be limited, which means that they may be more likely to have to be put on a ventilator if they contract COVID. The virus enters the cells in the body and replicates. It enters the cells via a receptor called ACE2. There are more of these type of receptors in fat cells. According to Dr. Jaime Ponce, Medical Director of Bariatric Surgery at CHI Memorial, “They [individuals with obesity] have more of these receptors so the virus has the ability to get in to replicate and stay there more times.”

Preventing COVID-19

Individuals with obesity should get their COVID vaccinations as soon as possible to limit their chance of contracting the disease or from being hospitalized by the disease. While individuals wait to receive the vaccine, there are a few other things they can do to protect themselves in addition to social distancing. Enjoying healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, safely exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night, and managing stress effectively will help keep your body healthy.

However, healthy lifestyle changes combined with weight-loss surgery produce the best results. While many hospitals have put off elective surgeries, there are weight-loss procedures, such as laparoscopic adjustable gastric band, that can be safely performed at an ambulatory (non-hospital) surgery center. So, while waiting for a lifesaving shot, people who are 30 – 60 pounds overweight have a proven solution available right now.

If you are ready to take control of your weight loss, the Lap-Band® Program may be the next step for you.

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Important Lap-Band® System Safety Information

The ReShape Lap-Band Systems are approved for adults with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or higher, or a BMI of at least 30 with health conditions related to obesity, who have not seen success with other weight loss methods, like supervised diet, exercise, and behavior modification programs. Choosing this surgery means committing to changes in eating habits for the long term.

The Lap-Band procedure is not approved for individuals under 18 yo, those with conditions that may make them poor surgical candidates or lead to poor results, such as inflammatory or cardiopulmonary diseases, problems with the stomach and digestion, symptoms or family history of autoimmune disease, scarring of the liver, individuals unable or unwilling to follow the necessary dietary restrictions, individuals with alcohol or drug addictions, or those currently pregnant. Individuals who become pregnant after band placement may require deflation of their bands.

The ReShape Lap-Band Systems, a long-term tool, may need to be adjusted if you get pregnant, sick, or malnourished. Be careful with anti-inflammatory drugs as they could make the band wear away. Like any surgery, placement of the Lap-Band may have complications such as risks from drugs and methods used, general surgery risks, how well your body handles a foreign object, or in rare cases, risk of death.

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with metabolic and bariatric surgery that you and your doctor should discuss. Potential risks associated with the Lap-Band include nausea, vomiting, heartburn, stomach blockage, constipation, swallowing difficulty, diarrhea, abnormal stools, abdominal pain, weakness, incision pain, infection, fever, hernia, chest pain, band movement, stomach pouch expansion, unusual healing, pain at the port site, port movement, and/or hair loss. Additional surgery might be needed. Losing weight quickly could lead to complications requiring more surgery. 

Talk to your doctor, and/or visit our website at for more information on its benefits and risks.