Shortened Life: Covid or Chronic Disease?

The year of COVID associates with shortened life expectancy in the U.S.

Returning to life as we knew it

As SARS-Cov-2 becomes less life threatening and less severe to our health both individually and collectively, will we return to health?

This is a leading question…the fact is—we were not in a collective state of health prior to COVID. So the real question is whether we are going to be willing and driven to find the kind of wellness that counts toward a longer and healthier life?

Maybe it is chronic illness not just COVID?

Going back to 2014 – Research linked chronic disease to life expectancy with extraordinary linear accuracy. It goes like this: “A 67-year-old individual with 5 chronic conditions and ≥10 chronic conditions will live 7.7 fewer years and 17.6 fewer years, respectively. The average marginal decline in life expectancy is 1.8 years with each additional chronic condition-ranging from 0.4 fewer years with the first condition to 2.6 fewer years with the sixth condition. These results are consistent by sex and race.”

SO when this past year of COVID shortens our life expectancy by about one year from the year to year comparison, it may not be as simple as blaming the virus for all that happened. This recently came to light as the CDC included additional chronic illnesses to their list of comorbidities that increase COVID illness severity and mortality. It has been clear from day one that SARS-Cov-2 behaves differently in people and it is not just advancing age, but coexisting chronic disease, that raises the severity of COVID.

CDC adds more comorbidities to COVID risk list

Here is what WAS on the list in 2020: Hypertension, type 2 diabetes (specifically related to elevated blood sugar), chronic lung diseases like emphysema  and moderate to severe asthma, coronary artery disease and obesity. Additionally, people on immunosuppressive medications (for example post-transplant) are higher risk of all infections including COVID.

Here some of what HAS BEEN ADDED to the list in 2021: Stroke and other cerebrovascular disease, dementia, liver disease, neurological conditions, type 1 diabetes (again linked more to the state of hyperglycemia), overweight (Let’s call this pre-obesity?) and substance use disorders.

With this list – it is not a surprise then that as of the end of 2020, about 40% of all U.S. deaths from COVID occurred in patients in nursing home.

OK, I promise. I won’t leave you here.

I want to help you have a clear vision of what to do and how to move forward with your healthy life. The vaccine is an effective step toward reducing the severity of community spread of Sars-COV-2. I’ll share below what I and my family have done with the vaccine, but I don’t want to end the conversation there. Effective treatment of this COVID mess requires reducing the incidence of preventable chronic illness. Take the time to look at your medical chart…and remove one chronic illness if possible. Let’s talk about how to do that if needed, but at least we know we can increase almost two years of quality life for chronic condition we eliminate.  Let’s go!

My family’s vaccine choices

Vaccine helps your body address the virus, but you are still left to find real health

1 – I am getting the 1-shot J&J vaccine on Monday. I am in my 50’s and this is available in my state only this past week.  True, as a health care worker, I was offered it earlier. But there was NO WAY I (a 50-something in notably good health) was going to take the vaccine before my 83 year old mother, who does have a higher risk condition and lives in a community of women in their 70s to 90s. I wanted to assure the limited # of vaccines got to who actually needed them. My mother received her 2 dose vaccine with no ill effects several weeks ago. Only now is itmy turn.

2 – My son had COVID a few weeks ago – he finished 2 weeks of quarantine and that is why I went to full remote visits during the end of March. By the way, he had mild laryngitis for a couple days and from then has been 100% healthy. This type of mild/no symptoms is the most common outcome in this age group despite what we hear in media headlines and stories that describe rare exceptions. He does not need a vaccine with a prior confirmed positive case.

3 – My wife Alexandra works in public health and did receive her 2-shot protocol a couple weeks ago as well. Felt fine except for one day of increased fatigue following the 2nd shot.

4 – We have a son who is 25 – he told me he is scheduled to get the one-shot vaccine. And our 23 year daughter said she will likely get a vaccine. These two are NOT getting the vaccine for themselves, as they are not likely to have negative or severe effects from infection from SARS-Cov-2, but the evidence supports the decrease spread from vaccinated people even if they were to get COVID. So this one is for the herd.

Nutritional support? I’ll tell you what we are taking: multiple vitamin and extra vitamin D. I also recommend, without solid evidence but it is no harm, taking a 10 mg zinc lozenge twice daily for 3 days before and after the vaccine. I also take some cal-mag on a daily basis to help with my tolerance of regular workouts and activity. My simplified program is listed here:

I think spring is a better time to start a new year’s resolution. Let’s take a condition and make it all gone. Weight? Blood pressure? Blood sugar?  What can you improve upon?

Be well. Yours in health,