We are learning more and more every day about COVID-19, how it is transmitted, who it affects, and how to protect ourselves. Since we don’t have a vaccine and may not have one for months to come, scientists are looking at other ways to prevent and combat this tenacious virus. One of the more fascinating discoveries is that the COVID virus seems to affect men more than women. Men get sicker and have worse outcomes when they get the virus.
There are several possible reasons for this: men are not as mask compliant as women, and men may take more risks than women. Another theory has emerged, and it has to do with the protective effects of estrogen for women.
Women, COVID and Estrogen
Estrogen has been found to provide immunity against certain viral infections, including COVID-19. A study published this July confirms this finding. Another study from Wuhan, China, conducted in September found that women with low estrogen levels had more severe symptoms of COVID than women with higher levels.
So, for women who have adequate and normal amounts of estrogen, you are in good shape as long as you practice other recommended safety protocols. But what about women as they age? After menopause, estrogen drops significantly.
Add to that the increased risks of COVID mortality in people as they age. According to the CDC, “As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases. For example, people in their 50s are at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 40s. Similarly, people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.” So, if you are older, you have the double whammy of age-related risk and decreased estrogen.
Not much can be done about your age, but you can do something about dropping estrogen levels. Talking with your healthcare provider about bio-identical hormone replacement is a good start. By increasing your estrogen levels, you can not only hope for better protection against COVID, but you can also reap the benefits of protection against Alzheimer’s disease, reduce your risk for heart disease and protect against hip fractures. Other symptoms of low estrogen include memory problems, depression, sleep disturbance, and vaginal dryness.
Vitamin D and COVID
You may have heard some talk in the media about the potential protective effect that vitamin D has on COVID. There is not enough evidence to unequivocally state that Vitamin D prevents or treats COVID, but vitamin D does support the immune system. Dr. Anthony Fauci has this to say, “If you are deficient in vitamin D, that does have an impact on your susceptibility to infection. So I would not mind recommending — and I do it myself — taking vitamin D supplements.”
Other research found high rates of vitamin D deficiency in people with COVID-19. These patients also experienced acute respiratory failure and had a much higher risk of dying.
Vitamin D deficiency is a significant problem. Over 50% of men and women over the age of 65 in North America are vitamin D deficient. Other benefits of having enough vitamin D are:
A decrease in your chance of developing heart disease
A reduction in your chance of getting the flu
An improvement in mood for people with depression
An appetite-suppressing effect resulting in weight loss
Improves bone density
If you live in the northern hemisphere, it is tough to get enough vitamin D due to limited sun exposure. Some foods can increase your vitamin D, but supplementation might be necessary to get you up to adequate levels. A simple blood test will give you and your health provider an idea of where you are and how much of a supplement you need.
COVID and Your Health
At Optimal Hormone Health, we think of wellness as a part-time job. Your health and well-being take the same commitment, dedication, and effort as any job. What this means is that you have to make the time for it. We know what a challenge things are right now- homeschooling, working from home and missing our families and friends. The impact of an unprecedented pandemic on top of all this is stressful! Build a foundation of health that you can rely on by controlling what you can. Start by checking your hormone levels- you will be glad you did.
Focus on the basics: good nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and proper hormone regulation. A strong immune system, along with following recommended safety protocols is your best chance at fighting infection.