As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt life across America, the impact of the disease and actions taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have varied greatly by state. Colorado falls in the middle of the pack when it comes to coronavirus-related restrictions (21st among the states), with some research suggesting that Colorado’s residents may be less vulnerable than others around the country.
Here’s a look at a few factors some believe may be benefiting Coloradans when it comes to fighting and surviving COVID-19.
Editor’s Note: We’re not doctors and this is not official medical advice. The information in this article comes from various reports and studies conducted by experts, which can be read via included hyperlinks.
1. The Altitude
One study that compared the presence of COVID-19 in various high-elevation communities around world to their low-elevation counterparts found that fewer cases were present in populations living above approximately 8,200 feet above sea level.
Researchers believe that two factors could be at play – that those living at higher altitudes have developed a tolerance to lack of oxygen in their blood and that the virus doesn’t survive as long at a higher altitude. Read more here.
While Colorado reaches an elevation of 14,439 feet at the top of Mount Elbert, the average elevation of the state is just 6,800 feet above sea level – far short of the 8,200 foot benchmark used in the study. It’s also important to remember that the majority of Coloradans live below the state’s average elevation, with the largest cities of Denver and Colorado Springs being located at 5,280 and 6,035 feet above sea level, respectively.
Granted, some Centennial State mountain towns would be considered ‘high-elevation’ in the study. Breckenridge is at 9,600 feet. Silverton is at 9,318 feet. Leadville is at a whooping 10,151 feet.
While some Coloradans may benefit from this 8,200 foot lifestyle, most would not. That being said, if there is an incremental benefit at elevations leading up to the 8,200-foot benchmark, it would be reasonable to believe that some benefit could be seen.
2. The Sunlight
According to ScienceDaily, researchers that have analyzed patient data from 10 countries found higher COVID-19 mortality rates were present in countries where patients had lower levels of vitamin D.
Keep in mind that led researcher Vadim Backman, of Northwestern, said this of the findings:
“While I think it is important for people to know that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in mortality, we don’t need to push vitamin D on everybody.”
The correlation between vitamin D deficiency and mortality rate has also been publicly promoted by Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a PhD in biomedical science. She talks about the potential benefit the vitamin has for the overall immune system and how it relates to the coronavirus in podcast episode number 1474 of the Joe Rogan Experience.
A key way that people naturally get vitamin D is through sunlight, of which Colorado has plenty. Colorado has the sixth most sunlight in the country, averaging 4,960 kJ/m² of sunlight annually. This compares to the least sunny state, Washington, at 3,467 kJ/m². This means that in a world where all lifestyle’s are the same, Coloradans are simply more likely to get more natural vitamin D. Given the amount of time many Coloradans spend outside, this is likely even further skewed in the favor of some locals.
3. Physical activity
A review from the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine found that research “strongly supported” that exercise prevents or reduces the severity of something called ‘acute respiratory distress syndrome,’ or ARDS. This happens when fluid fills up in the lungs and prevents the body from getting enough air. An early estimate suggested that 67% to 87% of patients in the ICU with COVID-19 will develop ARDS. Prior research shows that 45% of patients that develop severe ARDS will die.
Other benefits of exercise include reduction of stress, better sleep, and overall physical fitness. These factors can contribute to a stronger immune system and overall health.
Colorado is ranked as the most active state in the country, with 82.7% of residents self-reporting that they spend 30 minutes a day partaking in some sort of physical activity. It’s likely that this high level of physical activity could contribute to a better chance in the fight against the coronavirus.
But, has it mattered?
According to Worldometers, Colorado ranks 14th among the 50 states plus D.C. when it comes to deaths per million people, just below the national average of 279 at 213 deaths per million. Keep in mind that New York’s death rate is nearly seven times that at 1,464 deaths per million.
That being said, many states that are less active, have less sunshine, and are at a lower altitude seem to have much lower death rates. While some of the aforementioned factors may contribute to a lower fatality risk for some, it doesn’t seem to be reflected in statewide data suggesting that many other factors are at play.
Granted, it’s probably not a bad idea to play it safe by striving to live a healthier lifestyle amid pandemic times. Pop a doctor-recommended multi-vitamin daily, cut down on the unhealthy habits, and try to work exercise into your daily routine while following official recommendations and restrictions.
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