#MSCOVID19: bring it on

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How is your COVID-19 prehabilitation going?

We are close to 4 months into the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and two months since my blog post and my MS-Selfie microsite entry explaining how to prepare yourself for COVID-19. Are you ready? 

Despite being redeployed to general medicine during which time I was exposed to COVID-19 patients I didn’t get infected with the virus. I am anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody negative. However, I spent the last 3 months prehabilitating myself to get myself ready in case I get COVID-19. I am a strong believer in walking-the-talk and setting an example for my patients; you can’t tell your patients to do something for their general health if you are not prepared to do it yourself. 

  1. I have put in place an advanced directive with my wife and we are in the process of redoing our wills. I have also decided not to cancel my life insurance policy, which I was meant to do in April.  
  2. I have purchased a pulse oximeter for home monitoring of my oxygen saturation so that if I did get COVID-19 and had to self-manage and self-monitor at home I could do it with confidence.
  3. I have purchased a battery pack for my mobile phone if I need to be admitted to hospital and have a spare mobile phone charger at hand in case my main charger malfunctions or goes missing. I also have a back-up old mobile phone for the same reason.
  4. As for comorbidities; I have managed to get my BMI below 24, which is the first time in about 10 years that I have done this. 
  5. I have flattened the area under my insulin curve by being on a low carbohydrate diet. My last fasting blood glucose was 2.7mmol/L. I intermittent fast at least twice a week. I am keto-adapted and feel more alert as a result. 
  6. I am now normotensive with a resting blood pressure of around 116/ 78mmHg.
  7. I exercise 4-5 times a week and even ran a half-marathon last weekend albeit a South London meander. The latter was in response to a challenge from a good friend of mine who did the same in Orlando, Florida.  He now wants me to run a marathon with him on the original course from Marathon to Athens as a treat to ourselves once we survive and get out the other side of the pandemic.
  8. I am not sleep-deprived; I am getting 6-7 hours a sleep a night which beats the 4-5 hours I used to sleep. 
  9. I am vitamin D, zinc and magnesium replete from taking supplements.
  10. I have a natural suntan from spending between 6-8 hours a week outdoors; running, working in the garden, walking our dog who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, or sipping a G&T before sundown.
  11. I do breathing exercises (stacking) once or twice a day in my office.
  12. I am less anxious than before. Why?
    • I have stopped watching the news in the evening
    • I don’t read a daily newspaper 
    • I only read specific articles from newspapers I subscribe to (selective reading)
    • I restrict my consumption of social media feeds to specific times of the day
    • I am spending a lot of time in the garden
    • I am listening to more music than I used to, which is very relaxing. I have recently discovered Melody Gardot and American jazz singer who is my current favourite and I have fallen back in love with Bob Marley.
  13. I am practising social distancing and adopting the personal hygiene recommendations of the government.

I am as ready as I will ever be to get COVID-19. I think I have given myself the best chance of (1) having mild disease, (2) staying out of the hospital, (3) and in the event of getting severe COVID-19 of surviving. In the unlikely event of dying from COVID-19, I have made some preparations to provide for my family and to make it easier for them. I also have personal ambitions for what I plan to do when we get over the pandemic.

It is clear that there are some risk factors that you cannot modify in a three month period when it comes to getting severe COVID-19 and potentially dying from it. The study below from colleagues in my hospital show just how the BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) community in East London are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. I suspect it is not because they are BAME but is due to social determinants of health, which will require a new political order and will to address over the next few decades. Sadly I am not convinced the current British government and leadership are up to the task.

Apea et al. Ethnicity and outcomes in patients hospitalised with COVID-19 infection in East London: an observational cohort study. MedRxIV doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.10.20127621

Background: Preliminary studies suggest that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds experience higher mortality from COVID-19 but the underlying reasons remain unclear. 

Methods: Prospective analysis of registry data describing patients admitted to five acute NHS Hospitals in east London, UK for COVID-19. Emergency hospital admissions with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 aged 16 years or over were included. Data, including ethnicity, social deprivation, frailty, patient care and detailed risk factors for mortality, were extracted from hospital electronic records. Multivariable survival analysis was used to assess associations between ethnic group and mortality accounting for the effects of age, sex and various other risk factors. Results are presented as hazard ratios (HR) or odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals. 

Findings: 1996 adult patients were admitted between 1st March and 13th May 2020. After excluding 259 patients with missing ethnicity data, 1737 were included in our analysis of whom 511 had died by day 30 (29%). 538 (31%) were from Asian, 340 (20%) Black and 707 (40%) white backgrounds. Compared to white patients, those from BAME backgrounds were younger, with differing co-morbidity profiles and less frailty. Asian and black patients were more likely to be admitted to intensive care and to receive invasive ventilation (OR 1.54, [1.06-2.23]; p=0.023 and 1.80 [1.20-2.71]; p=0.005, respectively). After adjustment for age and sex, patients from Asian (HR 1.49 [1.19-1.86]; p<0.001) and black (HR 1.30 [1.02-1.65]; p=0.036) backgrounds were more likely to die. These findings persisted across a range of risk-factor adjusted analyses. 

Interpretation: Patients from Asian and Black backgrounds are more likely to die from COVID-19 infection despite controlling for all previously identified confounders. Higher rates of invasive ventilation in intensive care indicate greater acute disease severity. Our analyses suggest that patients of Asian and Black backgrounds suffered disproportionate rates of premature death from COVID-19.

CoI: none

About the author

Prof G

Professor of Neurology, Barts & The London. MS & Preventive Neurology thinker, blogger, runner, vegetable gardener, husband, father, cook and wine & food lover.

15 comments

  • You might like an app that I was recommend at the start of the lockdown called ‘Vocable’. It uses head tracking for communication in case you find yourself unable to speak. (Thankfully, I haven’t needed it, so I can’t vouch if it is any good).

    Thanks for sharing that great list and advice. There are a few things on there that I let slip and need to address now.

  • That’s a very impressive list! In the week before the start of lockdown, anxiety caused me to lose three pounds in weight, despite eating normally. I haven’t put it back on and thankfully the stress is more or less gone. My solution to losing my normal exercise facilities (pool classes) has been to have three weekly personal training sessions done virtually with a sports pro from my club. It’s slightly less time overall per week but the effect of personally targeted v. class-based exercise is astonishing. I’ve changed shape! I’ll be keeping up this regime post-virus, – so a lifetime change. I haven’t done intermittent fasting for three years but I do eat a low-carb, Mediterranean diet and take supplements. I couldn’t agree more about keeping away from news. Accumulating the daily speculations feeds anxiety and does nothing positive. I read only your blog and occasionally look at Andrew Marr. I’m well distracted with various projects and live in a very peaceful spot with garden so know how lucky I am. I’ve got the pulse oximeter, two phone chargers and Power of Attorneys/will in place. One question, though: how much do you think we should be disinfecting/sanitising? I have friends who are religiously wiping every food item that comes into the house, disinfecting floors and shoes, bringing their own chairs if they sit in someone else’s garden…..I don’t know how far it should all be taken.

  • Dear Prof. G. You are of course 100% correct – being proactive and facing reality head on is the best of attitudes.

    An issue you might consider looking at and blogging on is Ursolic Acid.
    In April this year there was a PNAS article on the subject:
    doi:10.1073/pnas.2000208117
    As I’m an ex academic I no longer have an access to the full publication (I can go the British Library if it is open – but this requires a train journey and compromised social distancing).
    Anyway, if you can give your opinion on the subject Ursolic Acid and MS, while I’ll keep on eating my apple, following the saying – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”.
    Thanks
    Miri
    (I was of yours MS patients at Queen Sqr. Hospital many years ago)

  • I really need to redo my will, as I have accumulated a lot more property and moved to a different country since the last time I did one. I have income protection insurance but no life insurance as I have no dependents. My mum and I have had an honest conversation about DNRs/end of life and we are on the same page, but we are not sure my brother is (mind you, I don’t expect him to fight them to keep the ventilator on given my estate will go to his children).

    I have purchased a thermometer…. my BMI has gone up, to 20. I am walking less now I don’t work in a large open plan office. I have two mobile phones and plenty of charger, and one battery pack which I take with me on long runs/ultramarathons.

    Speaking of which I am still training as if Edinburgh Marathon is going ahead on 6th September. I have also taken up cycling as a way of getting further from home.

    I’m doing lots of yoga. This has so many benefits – breathwork, meditation, calmness, strength.

    I’m taking my supplements. I’m social distancing, mostly… I volunteer a lot which is really great for my mental wellbeing and feeling connected to my local community but sometimes social distancing is compromised. I now have a “bubble” including a friend who lives close by and had my first hug in three months, also good for my wellbeing! (we have been very open with each other about our contact with other people and what we will and will not accept – which is actually how we chose each other).

    I am sorry to hear about your dog.

  • Couldn’t agree more about keeping reading the news to a minimum. Too much (all?) of it gets me depressed or angry, or both. It can develop into an unhealthy addiction in these turbulent times. There’s also not a lot you can do about it but stand back and watch (sometimes in horror). Yoga and other forms of exercise are much more positive and have the effect of restoring some sort of equilibrium.
    Thank you for reminding us of all the many positive things we can do at this time. I’m sorry you lost your dog.

  • OK. Being strong will help you fight any disease. Allowing you survive a little longer and hopefully buy you enough time for medical intervention to change your outcome. But this will not prevent severe covid 19. People who get severe covid 19 are genetically already susceptible. Like having blood type A. Linked genes before you yawn. But agree with message of self belief can change the outcome. Its why we have placebo controlled trials.

  • “. I intermittent fast at least twice a week. I am keto-adapted and feel more alert as a result. ”

    Boa, boa…… 🙂

    On the fasting days do you eat anything?

    Obrigado

  • All,

    Haven’t posted in a few weeks, wanted to check back in. We have left NYC for the week and we are all feeling much better. We are upstate, even drove in state all the way, rather than cut through Pennsylvania. Took extra time but was the right thing to do.

    The last few weeks in the city reminded me of the marching season of 96, back were I grew up outside Belfast. I know that few people will get that cultural reference. Nice to get out and decompress.

  • Love the latest rainbow coloured post headings 🌈 very 2020

    Spare battery and phone charger rightly high up on the list ✔ 🙂

  • Political determents of health, yes….sugar needs to be taxed, as in chocolate bars etc and health warnings placed on junk food.

By Prof G

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