Healthy habits may decrease risk of long COVID, study shows

Healthy habits may decrease risk of long COVID, study shows

When the COVID-19 pandemic first swept the nation, contracting the disease — and surviving it — was most people’s primary concern. Now, as we learn more about the disease, researchers are pivoting to studying and understanding long COVID.

In a new study from Harvard University researchers, findings pointed to a healthy lifestyle as key to reducing the risk of contracting long COVID.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 32,000 female nurses from the long-running Nurses’ Health Study II, in which participants reported on their lifestyle and COVID-19 experience, among other things. For the study, the researchers defined a healthy lifestyle as having a healthy body weight, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, a high-quality diet, moderate alcohol consumption and not smoking.

Women deemed to have a healthy lifestyle had about half the risk of contracting long COVID as the women who did not. Factors most strongly associated with a lower risk of long COVID were body weight and adequate sleep.

Currently, between 8 and 23 million Americans have long COVID or COVID-19 symptoms a month or more after initial infection. These can include fever, heart, digestive symptoms and fatigue. Long COVID can also include neurological symptoms, like anxiety, depression, changes in smell or taste, or trouble concentrating, often called “brain fog.”

According to the researchers, 70% of the United States’ population is not at a healthy body weight and 30% of us don’t get enough sleep.

Making small changes to your lifestyle might not only pay off in the long run … it could also help ward off any long-term ill effects from long COVID.

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