Obesity: An Alarming Risk Factor in COVID-19 Severity

Available for Interviews: Dr. Tammy Penhollow

Dr. Tammy Penhollow is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, specializing in anesthesiology, pain management, and regenerative medicine. Having over 20 years of experience has helped her to cultivate a passion for regenerative medicine and holistic healing. Dr. Penhollow practices at Precision Regenerative Medicine in the greater Phoenix area.


What Dr. Tammy Penhollow can say in an interview on
COVID-19 and Obesity: 

1)  Obesity is emerging as one of the major risk factors for COVID-19 severity, particularly in young patients. It’s not so surprising to this Anesthesiologist, who assesses risk for anesthesia in an average of 30-40 patients a day. Obesity is a foundational condition that very quickly increases risk and prevalence of many other medical conditions and almost exponentially increases morbidity and mortality.

2) Obesity is defined broadly as a body mass index greater than or equal to 30, but is further stratified into CDC grade I (BMI 30 – 34.9), grade II (BMI 35 – 39.9) and grade III (BMI >/=40, also known as morbid obesity).  

3) Obesity is associated with obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. In the younger patient population, these comorbid diseases may not have had the time to manifest to full blown diagnoses, but the underlying issues are present: 

a) restriction of the diaphragm and breathing from volume/mass from a large abdomen. In COVID, specifically, the process in the lungs requires the diaphragm to work even harder and this is impaired by obesity; 

b) fat cells are pro-inflammation and have increased cytokines (as in cytokine storm in COVID); 

c) ACE-2 receptors—are expressed at high levels in fat cells. This protein is key in COVID. The virus attacks fat, is stored in fat and may shed more slowly in fat thereby making these patients more infectious and for longer, even as they recover. Further, insulin resistance is common in obesity. ACE-2 receptors are upregulated and may make viral entry into lung cells even easier.

4) In a British study, obese patients are more than 2x as likely to die from COVID-19, similar to increased risk of morbidity and mortality in the 2009 H1N1 Flu, and the 1950s and 1960s flu pandemics.

5)  Columbia University study showed grade III obesity was associated with intubation and death in COVID patients younger than 65 (but was not associated with the same in those >65yo).

Here is Dr. Tammy Penhollow talking more about this.

Interview: Dr. Tammy Penhollow

Dr. Tammy Penhollow practices at Precision Regenerative Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona, where develops individualized treatment plans for musculoskeletal and spine interventions with PRP and bone marrow aspirate using image guidance, as well as micro-needling with PRP for skin, hair and anti-aging conditions. She also stays active in teaching as an Instructor in Anesthesiology for the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and as a Supplemental Consultant for the Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

A former active duty US Naval Officer, Dr. Penhollow has lived, practiced, and has been deployed around the US and overseas. She embodies the lifestyle she recommends to her patients and is an active hiker, gardener and yogi as well as a French trained home chef and an aspiring sommelier.

Jo Allison
Managing Editor
Director of Public Relations
Success In Media, Inc.

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