DONALD Trump's age and weight make him two to three times more likely to die from the coronavirus, one of the country's leading obesity experts has warned.
Trump, 74, was rushed to Walter Reed medical center out of an "abundance of caution" on Friday night after testing positive for COVID-19.
He is reportedly having trouble breathing leading to "serious concerns" among White House officials – but the president has insisted "I think I'm doing well."
Doctor David Buchin from Huntington Hospital, New York, told The Sun that Trump's height and weight give him a BMI of 30.5 – putting him in the "obese" category and placing him at a significantly higher risk of developing complication or dying from coronavirus.
"Trump's height is 6'3" and he's 244 pounds, which puts him at a BMI of 30.5 so there's no question about it – he's obese. Anything above 30 is obese," Dr Buchin, the director of bariatric surgery at the hospital, said.
"Being obese doesn't increase the risk of catching COVID-19 but if you're obese you have a much poorer outcome.
"You are two to three times more likely to die of coronavirus if you are obese, especially if you have other co-morbidities related to obesity, like diabetes, high blood pressure or sleep apnea.
"Obviously if you're obese, you also have a higher risk of hospitalization and a poor outcome, a higher morbidity rate, higher risk of being placed on a ventilator and a higher risk of having a COVID complication.
"Trump has two major risk factors – he's got his advanced age, 74 years old and his weight is more than it should be – he's obese.
"So those are the two highest risk factors for COVID.
"From what I know, aside from that, President Trump is relatively healthy. However he doesn't have the greatest diet, unfortunately he does eat fast food and drinks sugary drinks and that does put him at increased risk."
Just three days ago, Trump joked about his love of fast food, responding to a 2018 Japanese study which found that a certain chemical in McDonald's fries could be a cure for baldness.
“No wonder I didn’t lose my hair!” the president tweeted in response to an older tweet from former President George W Bush’s press secretary, Ari Fleischer.
Fleischer is a bald man who joked the apparent chemical in the fries “doesn’t work.”
Dr Buchin said: "Obviously having fast food all the time is not healthy. A Big Mac and fries can be up to 1,000 calories plus there's not many nutrients in fries and burgers.
"Trump's not getting some of the antioxidants that fresh vegetables and fruits provide – the vitamins, the minerals – by eating this kind of food.
"Obviously he was making a joke when he Tweeted the other day but I do wish he would set a better example for the American people.
"About 40 per cent of the American population is obese, so you're not really helping the issue by eating fast food and joking about it."
There are two ongoing theories about why obese people are more at risk of dying or developing complications from COVID-19, Dr Buchin explained.
One is that fat cells create "inflammatory mediators" which can worsen the disease process.
Another theory is that the virus attaches on to fat cells, which may make it worse for obese people, who have more fat cells.
Dr Buchin, who is also the head of Long Island Obesity Surgery, does believe that Trump's hospitalization is just a "precaution" and thinks he will recover.
"If he coughed the wrong way or had a very high fever, bringing him to the hospital is the best place for him, because they can treat him a lot better than they could in the White House," he said.
"Plus if you start early treatment with remdesivir and antibodies, those are IV medications.
"Obviously they could probably start an IV in the White House but the doctors want him monitored a lot more carefully while he is getting these medications. So I think being in the hospital is the best thing for him.
"Even if he was younger and healthier, I still think he would have ended up in the hospital just for precautionary measures.
"It's a very unpredictable disease process so it's hard to speculate how he's going to do, but the best thing about it is he's at one of the best institutions in America and they have very good doctors monitoring his health and his care. I'm sure he'll do okay. I wish him well."
Dr Buchin says once Trump recovers he would advise him to think about making some lifestyle changes to lower his weight.
He would even qualify to get a gastric balloon – but only after he had improved his diet and exercise regime, Dr Buchin said.
"The first thing clearly is that he has to improve his diet. I would absolutely have him consult with the dietician.," he said.
"Number two would be to start an exercise program for him, I mean, he's a very busy man, but 20 to30 minutes a day would definitely help him.
"And there are other medications that are pretty good on the market today that could help him get down in weight.
"He would also qualify for a gastric balloon, which expands in the stomach, but before we do any procedures, he'd have to improve his diet and exercise regime."
Earlier on Friday, Trump was seen giving a "thumbs up" as he walked across the White House South Lawn to presidential helicopter Marine One for the first time since he confirmed he had the deadly virus.
Shortly after he was transported to the military hospital in Maryland, Trump tweeted out a video of himself thanking "everybody for the tremendous support."
"I'm going to Walter Reed hospital. I think I'm doing very well. But we're going to make sure things work out," Trump said.
He said First Lady Melania Trump, 50 – who also tested positive for COVID – "is doing very well."
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