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Healthful Lifestyle and Risk for “Long COVID”
A healthful lifestyle before SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with lower risk for long COVID in a dose-response fashion.
“Long COVID,” formally known as post–COVID-19 condition, is defined as COVID-19 symptoms lasting for or developing ≥4 weeks after initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. To determine whether a healthful lifestyle before COVID-19 was associated with postinfection risk for long COVID, researchers used data on 32,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. opens in new tab who reported lifestyle factors in 2015 and 2017; healthful factors were absence of overweight, never smoking, regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, no excessive alcohol intake, high-quality diet, and adequate sleep.
During 2020 and 2021, nearly 2000 women (mean age, 65) reported receiving positive SARS-CoV-2 tests. Of these, 44% of women had long COVID, the most common symptoms being fatigue, altered sense of taste and smell, dyspnea, brain fog, and memory concerns. In analyses that were adjusted for various demographic and clinical variables, risk for long COVID fell as number of healthful lifestyle factors increased, in a dose-response relation. Compared with women who had no healthful lifestyle factors, those with 5 to 6 factors had 49% lower risk for long COVID.
This study is subject to residual confounding, but the results complement prior studies that showed healthful lifestyle factors are associated with less-severe COVID-19 and lower risk for death caused by infectious diseases (including COVID-19; Brain Behav Immun 2020; 87:184. opens in new tab and Brain Behav Immun 2021: 96:18. opens in new tab).