How diet, yoga and feeling loved could help you fight coronavirus and chronic illness

Most deaths from Covid have been in people who have one or more chronic diseases.

And most experts believe the likes of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, ­autoimmune diseases and dementia have much in common – a big one being they are affected by our lifestyle choices, which result in a healthy or unhealthy immune system.

I read a fascinating article in the journal of the Royal College of ­Physicians by Michael Dixon and Dean Ornish.

It said that many chronic diseases respond to lifestyle changes, indeed they could even prevent them. So could these same changes lower the risk of dying from Covid-19? It seems to me that it’s a theory worth pursuing.

Well, there are basically four of these lifestyle factors – what you eat (a wholefood, plant-based diet), what you do (adequate physical activity such as walking and strength training), mental wellbeing (stress reduction, including meditation, gentle yoga) and your connectedness (social ­connections, friends and family).

These lifestyle changes have a ­positive impact on reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases and may even act to reduce the severity of, or reverse, established diseases that increase the risk of contracting and dying from Covid.

In short: eat well, move more, stress less, love more, and fifth, don’t smoke.

In 2018, a large-scale study of more than 100,000 patients from the Harvard School of Public Health found people with the above five healthy ­lifestyle habits had an 82% lower risk of dying from heart disease, a 65% lower chance of dying from cancer and a 74% lower risk of dying from all causes during follow-up. Plus they lived an average of 12-14 years longer.

Paradoxically, shielding and staying at home has made people feel lonely and isolated and three to 10 times more likely to become ill and die ­prematurely than those who have a strong sense of love, belonging and community.

Plus feeling fear suppresses immune function so would make someone more likely to get the very disease they’re most afraid of – Covid.

So, when a person is depressed, their immune system is also depressed.

This was found to be the case in a study of HIV positive men with ­mental health problems.

Those who were depressed were significantly more likely to die from AIDS than those who were not depressed.

And a more recent study found feeling happy and peaceful enhances immune function – and possibly our resistance to Covid.