Books wrapped during pandemic cause health problems
Many Americans, including adults and children in South Dakota, have gained weight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing health experts to worry about the potential for long-term negative implications on physical and mental health.
The prolonged stress experienced since the start of 2020 seriously affects mental and physical health, including changes in weight, sleep patterns and alcohol consumption, according to a study by the American Psychological Association published in March.
The national study found that Americans’ physical health declined during the pandemic because people struggle to find healthy ways to cope with the stress of the pandemic, and turn to habits such as overeating and l increase in alcohol or drugs, which can lead to less sleep and contribute more to excessive weight gain or loss.
The majority of adults who say they experienced high stress during the pandemic have reported weight gain. The psychological association study found that 61% of adults surveyed across the country said they gained weight during the pandemic, and nearly half of those people said they gained more than expected, from 15 to 50 pounds. . Another group, around 18%, said they lost more weight than expected.
Nutrition experts say that weight gain can have a lasting impact on the physical and mental health of residents.
“The isolation really led to a drop in mental state,” said Kelsey Raml, registered dietitian in Watertown. “Losing control over your health habits leads to emotional eating, lack of exercise and before you know it 10 or 20 pounds are gained. With weight gain, factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar also increase. ”
South Dakota Department of Health spokesperson Daniel Bucheli said the department would monitor how weight gain had recently occurred in the state and that it did not yet have data to track them. changes during the pandemic. But South Dakota health professionals say they have seen anecdotal evidence that some of their patients have gained or lost excess weight.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of South Dakotas considered overweight or obese on the body mass index scale was around 60% for the three years leading up to the pandemic. More recent data was not yet available.
Significant weight gain poses long-term health risks, experts say. People who gain more than 11 pounds have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, and people who gain more than 24 pounds have a higher risk of having a stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health. According to the CDC, people considered overweight are more likely to develop severe symptoms of COVID-19 than those considered to be at a healthy weight for their body type.
Children also experienced significant weight gain during the pandemic, when many school and sports activities were interrupted.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, about one in 10 children aged 5 to 11 gained an average weight gain of 5 pounds during the pandemic. About 16% of South Dakota children between the ages of 5 and 19 are considered obese, according to 2019 data from the South Dakota Department of Health. Nationally, obesity is present in about 17% of these children of the same age. Data for 2020 will be available in 2022, Bucheli said.
Native American children in South Dakota, who may have less access to healthy, affordable food and quality health care, are more likely to be considered obese on the BMI scale. Almost 29% of Aboriginal children are obese on the BMI scale, compared to about 14% of white children.
However, according to a national study published in the American Journal of Public Health, obesity rates among Native American children have leveled off over the past five years, curbing a steadily increasing rate that had been seen in previous decades. Native American residents are already at a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease due to disproportionate poverty and lack of access to quality health care, according to the Indian Health Service, conditions that could be made worse by the weight gain.
Wellness experts fear the physical symptoms and stigma surrounding weight gain overshadows what they say is a bigger discussion: mental health and delayed care.
“Gaining and losing weight is not synonymous with health or ill health,” said Rose Adamski, a master’s student in the dietetics program at South Dakota State University. “It’s hard to tie your health to your weight. The weight gain resulting from a pandemic isn’t much of a problem. Mental health issues and access to food… were more common.
When Mariah Weber, dietitian at SDSU, meets a patient who has gained or lost significant weight, her first concern is her mental health. Most of his patients who have gained weight in the past year have postponed their visit to their doctor because they fear the only health problem the doctor is addressing is weight gain, he said. she declared.
“The stigma of weight gain contributes more to depression and anxiety than the weight gain itself,” Weber said. “They are not going to the doctor is the main concern.”
Weber and Adamski cautioned against using only the BMI scale, which does not take muscle mass into account, as an indicator of overall health. Weber treated athletes who would be considered “obese” by the scale, but who are healthy, active people who eat well. She has also had patients who can be considered a healthy weight on the BMI scale, but only get that weight because of an eating disorder where they are dangerously restricting food.
The majority of Weber’s patients present with some form of “eating disorder” or a formal eating disorder. An eating disorder is a diagnosable condition such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, while an eating disorder can range from restricting certain foods to obsessing over “clean” eating. or excessive exercise.
People with eating disorders or eating disorders experienced increased symptoms during the pandemic. Isolation, reduced access to regular in-person treatment, and added stress can make a disorder worse, Weber said. Often, people with a diagnosed disorder do not want to eat with other people. Part of the treatment involves eating with friends and family, a tactic that has been more difficult to accomplish during the pandemic.
“When you take their routine and they throw it off, it disrupts their whole life and food becomes more of their controlling mechanism, so when you have them at home and you add a ton of stress, it’s going to exacerbate what. is already happening, ”Weber said.
However, the pandemic has not negatively affected everyone’s weight. Weber and Raml said they have seen customers use the absence of daily vehicle trips and spend more time at home to get out more with their families. Some people have lost weight in a manageable way by learning to cook healthy meals at home and participating in outdoor physical activities.
Raml encourages patients to find positive outlets for dealing with any ongoing bereavement or trauma to help them manage the maintenance of health and well-being. Failure to deal with emotions can lead to significant long-term consequences, including chronic disease, according to the American Psychological Association.
“Find out what triggers that emotion of overeating or inactivity and try to find a positive outlet, whether it’s taking nature photos, listening to music, going for a walk,” Raml said. “Anything that helps you try to reduce your stress is helpful in getting through this difficult time. “
Raml and Weber encouraged anyone struggling with eating disorders or weight management to seek expert help. Weber said she often referred clients to advice, and vice versa. They also advised taking a break from social media, which can be inundated with diet and exercise ads.