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Protection from External and Internal Threats


A Message from the Director
Posted on 5/20/2020 by Foundation for Airway Health
by Howard G. Hindin, DDS

As we tentatively enter the reopening phase in our country and resume contact with friends, family and work teams, risk of exposure to coronavirus will increase. While we continue to protect ourselves from external threats, we should at the same time reinforce our internal defenses—so if infected we can join the ranks of those who test positive but never have symptoms, rather than those stricken with severe and life-threatening disease.

Dealing With External Threats
Hand washing, social distancing and masks: Taken together, these are the strategies to use to avoid exposure to the coronavirus and protection from contacting COVID-19. In New York, testing has shown that hospital workers and first responders who diligently employ all three have fewer incidences of infection than the general public, even though they have far more exposure. Certainly we should continue to use these strategies to protect us from external threats of infection.

Dealing with Internal Threats
A New York Times article (May 18, 2020), “Where Chronic Health Conditions and Coronavirus Could Collide,” suggests that areas of the country that have not yet seen major outbreaks are at risk for high incidence of severe cases and death because of the large number of people with at least one or more underlying conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sleep apnea. These conditions will not increase your risk of contracting COVID-19, but will increase your risk of hospitalization and death.

SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), or COVID-19, is a respiratory disease like other respiratory flus. However the novel coronavirus is unique in its ability to initiate an over-response of the immune system, a reaction called a “cytokine storm.” In this kind of storm, the immune system attacks and damages vital organs—including the brain- and also causes the production of blood clots. At first these clots were thought to only occur in the lungs, but now COVID patients present with clots throughout the body.

Aging, obesity, poor sleep, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and unmanaged stress all lead to chronic inflammation, essentially building an explosive device that can be armed and detonated at any time by the coronavirus or some other health challenge. Left unaddressed, the presence of this explosive device will lead to disease over time even without an acute health challenge to set it off.

The message is clear: We can help ourselves most by facing and managing the internal threats making us more susceptible to health crises. At the same time, these steps will also reduce the epidemic of chronic disease.
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