Why are Obese People at a Higher Risk for COVID-19?

It is common knowledge that the pandemic has contributed to a significant number of people gaining weight. With several lockdowns, self-isolating and working from home many people have begun stress eating, having minimal to no exercise and erratic sleep schedules. Additionally, self-isolation is prompting many to rely on processed food with longer shelf life instead of fresh produce, and canned food, which increases the intake of sodium. All these factors inevitably contribute to weight gain and although you may not have COVID-19, factors like these can make you sick.

While gaining a few extra pounds is completely normal and mostly doesn’t affect your health, excessive weight gain can have the opposite effect. A recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that 42% of US adults have experienced undesired weight gain during the pandemic, with an average gain of 29 pounds. However, did you know that obesity-related conditions seem to put people at a higher risk for COVID-19? 

The Impact of Obesity on COVID-19

There have been several reports and studies conducted indicating obesity to be a strong factor for becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. A study in France conducted on 124 patients admitted to the ICU said that 75.8% of the patients were obese and indicated a high incidence of obesity among patients admitted for COVID-19. These patients also required invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), which is meant to assist or replace breathing in patients due to their inability to do so. Additionally, further studies concluded that obesity was a major risk factor for the severity of COVID-19 in a group of patient’s metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD). 

A study from Rhode Island, USA showed that there is a strong association between obesity and disease severity. The study was conducted on 103 adult patients who were admitted with COVID-19 to the hospital. It was concluded that patients with extreme obesity, those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35kg, are at a high risk of severe COVID-19. 

A similar study was conducted by New York University health center on 3615 COVID-19 patients. The study showed that younger, positive symptomatic patients (below the age of 60 with a BMI greater than 30kg) who visited the hospital were more than twice likely to be admitted and develop critical illness compared to patients with a BMI less than 30kg. The likelihood of admission to ICU increased to 3.6 times in patients with severe obesity. It was concluded that after age, obesity was the single most important factor for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. Similarly, many other studies were conducted to signify the increased threat of COVID-19 on people with obesity. Some even go to say that obesity increases the risk of mortality in patients. Now, with the increase in state and worldwide vaccinations taking place, it is advised to get vaccinated at the earliest. Are you confused about the many vaccines available? Read Which COVID-19 vaccine is the best on our blog. 

What Can You do to Keep Your Weight in Check?

As opposed to the past, obesity is now not recognized as a lifestyle choice but it is recognized in medicine and globally as a chronic disease. When a patient is diagnosed with a disease or a chronic condition, they are advised to seek out professional medical help. Similarly, people struggling with weight issues or obesity should do the same. Getting the appropriate care and support is as important as following a strict and structured diet. 

In simpler cases, all you need to do is take a step back and assess the lifestyle changes that you wish to make during this stressful time. You can pre-plan meals, eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, cut down on starch, eat lean protein and produce. It is also important to have plenty of water and stay hydrated. A glass of water before a meal and 30 minutes after a meal, can greatly take the edge off your hunger. Following such a diet and sticking to it could make you feel full and help prevent cravings and unnecessary eating. 

Following other simple principles could greatly benefit you as well. For example, before grocery shopping, make a list of all your necessities and stick to it. It also helps if you go shopping on a full stomach so that you are not tempted to unnecessarily splurge. Impulse buying can lead to binge eating and other unhealthy habits. A very handy trick to tell the difference between genuine hunger and cravings is that hunger builds gradually while cravings are specific and often spontaneous.

There are many nutritionists and professionals you can visit to gain knowledge on the appropriate diets, exercise, surgeries and medication you can take. At Buckhead Medicine, our healthcare professionals can assist with your weight loss strategies to ensure they are safe and effective. You can reach out to our office to secure an appointment that suits your schedule. We will guide you through your fitness journey to ensure you remain healthy. We tackle all the arena’s of weight loss from diet, exercise, implementing good habits and even prescribing FDA approved medication that can help you lose weight. To book an online consultation with doctors in Atlanta, Georgia, contact Buckhead Medicine. You can also schedule an appointment and visit our medical practice for routine check-ups, to know more about our weight loss program. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to know more about how our team of doctors can help. 

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FAQ

What services are provided as a part of my annual fee?
  • Same-day or next business day appointments
  • Direct access to Dr. Espinosa via his personal cell phone after hours, weekends, and holidays
  • Minimal office wait times
  • Longer, more comprehensive appointments
  • House Calls (requires additional trip fee)
  • A strong focus on preventive medicine, long-term health and wellness
  • A personal professional relationship with your physician
What is the mission of Buckhead Medicine?

We strive to provide the highest quality medical care, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to prevention and disease management. We want patients to be completely satisfied with every aspect of their care.

Where is your office and are you on the medical staff of a local hospital?

Yes, Dr. Espinosa’s office is in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta. He is on the medical staff of Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. If you require hospitalization, Dr. Espinosa will coordinate your patient care by working with the hospital based physicians. He will also make periodic hospital visits during your hospitalization.

Who will cover for you when you are not available?

On infrequent occasions when Dr. Espinosa is out of town or otherwise unavailable, he will have another qualified physician cover for him. Even while out of town, Dr. Espinosa will generally be available by phone to his patients and to his covering physicians. For practical reasons, we reserve the right to designate another qualified physician to perform any and all services should the need arise.

Do you accept insurance?

Commercial Insurance and Medicare:
Buckhead Medicine is an In-Network provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Aetna, Coventry, Humana, Cigna, Tricare and United Healthcare. Our practice fully participates in the Medicare program. Buckhead Medicine accepts all other insurance as an Out-of-Network provider. We, however, do not participate in the Medicaid program. Regardless of your plan, we will bill your insurance for all covered services. It is our intention that no insurance-covered medical services are included in your annual fee.

HMO and Medicare HMO:
We do not participate in HMO programs. As such, HMO patients will not be able to join the practice until they transition to either a PPO or traditional Medicare plan.

Do I still need insurance if I enroll with you?

Yes. Personalized medical practices do not take the place of general health insurance coverage. Buckhead Medicine is a primary care medical practice, not a health insurance program. You are advised to continue your PPO, Medicare or other insurance program. If you are an uninsured individual and desire to enroll in the practice, we will provide you with a discounted fee schedule for office visits, tests and procedures.

What if I don't have health insurance?

For uninsured patients, Buckhead Medicine offers an uninsured patient plan. Although this plan is not insurance, it does cover for all clinic visits and any labs or tests that are performed in our office. In many cases this plan provides for significant cost savings to uninsured individuals. Please contact our office for additional details on this plan.

Will my insurance still be billed for my office visits?

Yes, we will bill your insurance company directly. The annual fee does not cover costs for regular exams or testing conducted inside or outside of the clinic. These costs are billed to your insurance provider in the same manner that traditional practices bill insurers.

Is there a co-payment?

If you have commercial insurance, we will collect the co-payment at the time of service. Medicare patients usually do not require a co-payment.

Do you bill Medicare for the annual fee?

No. The annual fee is not covered by Medicare. The fee only includes services that are not covered by Medicare and, as such, cannot be paid for or reimbursed by Medicare. We will bill Medicare for your sick visits and for any additional services performed at this practice that are covered by Medicare.

Will my commercial insurance reimburse my annual fee?

No, commercial insurance does not typically reimburse for the annual fee. However, some Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account plans may pay for all or part of the annual fee. In addition, some insurance plans allow the concierge fee to apply towards the annual deductible. Members are advised to consult their human resources representative at their place of employment.

Is the annual fee tax deductible?

In many cases the annual fee is a tax deductible healthcare expense. Patients are advised to consult with their tax consultant to clarify qualification in their particular circumstance.

Does the annual fee cover lab, x-ray, specialist fees and hospitalization?

Services such as labs, x-ray, specialty visits or hospitalizations are covered based on coverage determined by your insurance plan.

Are there age limits?

Dr. Espinosa is an Internal Medicine physician. His specialty is Adult medicine. Dr. Espinosa is trained to manage acute and chronic medical illnesses among adults. As such, the practice is limited to patients 17 years of age and older.

What if I have an emergency?

If you have a life threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. After you call 911, please call Dr. Espinosa. He will contact the hospital and notify the emergency room of your tentative arrival. In addition, Dr. Espinosa will provide the emergency room with pertinent medical history information

How far in advance do I need to book an appointment?

Dr. Espinosa is committed to providing his patients with easy access to care. All urgent visits will be accommodated either same day or next day, placing the greatest priority on the sickest patients. Annual physical exams will be booked 1 to 2 weeks in advance.

What do I do if I become ill while traveling or away on an extended vacation?

Call 911 if you have a life threatening emergency. Then call Dr. Espinosa. Call Dr. Espinosa first if the problem is minor. With the exception of a few controlled substances, most prescriptions can be ordered anywhere in the country. If necessary, it may be possible for Dr. Espinosa to find you a resource in your area. If you seek care at an emergency room or urgent care center out of our area, we request that you have the doctor seeing you call Dr. Espinosa for coordination. Dr. Espinosa will be readily available by phone for consultation with you and/or other health care personnel. If you should require hospitalization while away, at your request, Dr. Espinosa will establish phone communication with you and your attending physician(s) to ensure continuity of care.

Do you make house calls?

House calls will be available to Buckhead Medicine members, within a limited radius from the clinic. These will be done as deemed appropriate by Dr. Espinosa on a case-by-case basis. Home visits will be billed to your insurance provider similar to an office visit. A separate trip fee is required for house calls.

What if I need to see a specialist or a surgeon?

Of course, Buckhead Medicine patients are free to see any specialist they wish. We are available to help you decide what specialists to see and to coordinate such consultations. Patients may frequently request for “doctors in my area”, and we can accommodate this. We will ensure that the most appropriate resources are used, the earliest arrangements are made, and your applicable medical information is sent in advance of your specialist visit.

What about the cost of prescription medications?

The cost of prescription medications are the patient’s responsibility and in most cases should be covered by their insurance plans. We have expertise in assisting patients in purchasing medications in the most cost effective manner.

Will I be required to pay my annual fee even if I do not use your services?

Yes. Paying your annual fee allows you to be a member of the practice whether you are sick or well. We encourage our patients to utilize the amenities offered such as wellness consultations and emails for appropriate non-urgent health related questions, regardless of your state of health.

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