What is long Covid and what are the known symptoms?
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With many patients reporting debilitating symptoms that can last for years, long Covid represents a daunting outcome of the virus. From brain fog to extreme fatigue, the long-term condition triggers a slew of uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, new research suggests that your risk of long Covid might be modified with “simple” tweaks.
Long Covid is defined as persisting coronavirus symptoms, including fatigue, fever, brain fog, digestive, respiratory and heart problems, that won’t budge four weeks after the initial infection.
Previously, experts like Professor Tim Spector highlighted the importance of a healthy diet for long Covid.
Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, Spector said that feeding your gut the “right things” while avoiding “bad things” is what makes the difference to getting long Covid.
He recommended fermented foods – think kefir, kombucha, kimchi and fermented cabbage – to boost your gut health.
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Now, new research further confirms the key role of a healthy lifestyle, including your diet, in avoiding the debilitating condition.
The study noticed that women who followed most aspects of a healthy lifestyle had a 49 percent lower risk of long Covid.
The “simple lifestyle habits” in the study included healthy body weight, not smoking, regular exercise, good sleep, a high-quality diet, and moderate alcohol consumption.
Senior author of the study Andrea Roberts said: “With ongoing waves of COVID-19, long Covid has created a serious public health burden.
“Our findings raise the possibility that adopting more healthy behaviours may reduce the risk of developing long Covid.”
The research team from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analysed data from more than 32,000 female nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study II.
During that time, more than 1,900 participants contracted coronavirus, with around 44 percent going on to develop long Covid.
Compared to women without any healthy lifestyle factors, those with five or six healthy habits had about half the risk of the long-term condition.
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The researchers added that the factors most strongly associated with a lower risk of long Covid were a healthy body weight and good sleep.
The results also showed that, even among women who developed long Covid, those with a healthier pre-infection lifestyle had a 30 percent lower risk of the pesky, long-term symptoms.
Furthermore, previous research showed that an unhealthy lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation – both linked to a higher risk of long Covid.
Lead author Siwen Wang said: “In the past decades, scientists have accumulated evidence that a healthy lifestyle is good for overall health.
“However, in the US for example, 70 percent of the population do not have a healthy body weight and 30 percent do not sleep enough.
“Findings from this study suggest that simple lifestyle changes, such as having adequate sleep, may be beneficial for the prevention of long Covid.”
Currently, there are an estimated two million people living with long Covid in private households in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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