There’s one reason: It causes acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS.
What makes coronavirus so dangerous? Why does it kill so many more people than other viruses like the flu?
If you get COVID-19 and you can avoid ARDS, chances are you’ll survive. But patients who get ARDS often don’t make it.
One study found that 45% of COVID-19 patients who develop ARDS die.
ARDS occurs when fluid accumulates in your alveoli. These are tiny air sacs in your lungs. When they fill with fluid, it’s difficult for your body to get oxygen.
Symptoms include labored and rapid breathing, fever, cough, fatigue, and headaches. As ARDS progresses, it damages alveoli and the capillaries they feed oxygen to.
Eventually, the cell wall of alveoli thicken to the point that they can no longer function, said Dr. Sanjay Mukhopadhyay. He’s a lung pathologist with the Cleveland Clinic. “More and more you start moving towards severe illness and possibly death,” he said.
It’s important to take precautions like social distancing and handwashing to avoid getting coronavirus. But it may be just as crucial to do what you can to prevent the deadliest consequence of the disease, ARDS.
A new study shows there’s a way to do that.
Dr. Zhen Yan of the University of Virginia School of Medicine analyzed research on something called extracellular superoxide dismutase (EcSOD). It’s a powerful antioxidant that protects your tissues and helps prevent disease.
Dr. Yan found that a decrease in EcSOD is linked to acute lung diseases such as ARDS.
He said his findings have led him to “develop a novel therapeutic for ARDS caused by COVID-19.”
EcSOD is made in your muscles. Cardiovascular exercise boosts its production.
“All you hear now is either social distancing or ventilator,” said Dr. Yan, “as if all we can do is either avoiding exposure or relying on a ventilator to survive if we get infected.”
More doctors should be talking about exercise, he said. Doing cardio workouts when you’re healthy may be the best way to prevent deadly ARDS in the event you do contract the virus, he said.
Your body increases its production of EcSOD after just one exercise session, Dr. Yan said. He encourages everyone to find ways to get their heart rate up while maintaining social distancing.
“Regular exercise has far more health benefits than we know,” he said. “The protection against this severe respiratory disease condition is just one of the many examples.”
Exercise Now to Protect Yourself Against COVID-19’s Worst Complication
Take time every day to do cardio exercise. If you live in an area where you can go out without violating social distancing rules, then walking, jogging, or bicycling about a half hour a day is a great way to go.
Indoors, you can do:
- Jumping jacks. Do as many as you can in 30 minutes. Rest when you need to catch your breath.
- Dance. You don’t have to be Fred Astaire. Just put on some music and move.
- Run in place. Keep it challenging by raising your knees as high as you can.
Sheltering in place reduces your risk of getting coronavirus. But by exercising, if you do come down with the disease, you’ll have a better chance to survive its deadliest effect.
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