Dr. Justin Skrzynski thinks one of the most tragic things to occur in the pandemic would be if people don’t learn from it.
“To go back to our old habits and say that was terrible, but we’re moving on. I think that would be the saddest thing because I think there are a lot of lessons that the pandemic has to teach us and how we treat ourselves and our bodies. And our mental health is paramount amongst those,’’ said Skrzynski, an internal medicine specialist at Royal Oak Beaumont.
In treating COVID-19 patients since the pandemic started, he noticed an alarming trend in terms of a constellation of comorbidities called a metabolic syndrome which is a combination of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes or pre-diabetes.
“That was definitely the majority of the sickest in-patents we had,’’ Skrzynski said. He added that those patients were hit very hard.
“Because there’s such a high prevalence of those things in the community. I think that’s a real wakeup call moving forward in terms of facing any additional variants or surges,’’ Skrzynksi said. “Hopefully we will not see those, but if we had to or if God forbid there’s another virus or pandemic, it’s cause for concern that we have such a vulnerable population.’’
So while the benefits of the vaccines were well publicized the doctor said he’s not sure the message about health conditions that made people more vulnerable was a priority.
“Someone with hypertension, high blood pressure, heart disease — they would think of someone who is chronically ill as someone who has end stages of any of these diseases whereas in actuality they themselves are uniquely susceptible,’’ Skrzynski said.
Even before the pandemic the medical community has been dealing with issues like heart disease and obesity and pushing out the message of healthy living.
“Many people were very surprised that they ended up in the hospital. I think a lot of people had a sort of a false idea of how healthy they were,’’ the doctor said.
One of the more delicate conversations he has is with patients who are obese.
“You’ll have somebody whose only underlying condition is obesity. And they’ll say, ‘I don’t understand why I’m so sick, I don’t have any of these diseases on the list.’ It’s a very sort of socially laden kind of conversation to have: ‘You have a chronic illness which is obesity.’ I think people were sort of taken by surprise and due to various social stigmas having those conversations gets pretty touchy,’’ Skrzynski said.
At the same time the Centers for Disease Control reports that obesity increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Being obese may triple the risk of hospitalization due to a COVID-19 infection and obesity decreases lung capacity and reserve and can make ventilation more difficult.
“If there is a way to take the thought from the pandemic and make it in a positive way a wake-up call for people to get involved in their own health, it would be a good place to put our energies post-endemic,’’ Skrzynski said.