Nearly 2,000 women who reported a positive Covid-19 test between April 2020 and November 2021. The participants were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which has been surveying more than 100,000 US nurses since 1989.
Andrea Roberts, senior research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and senior author of the study, explained that ongoing waves of coronavirus, long Covid has created a serious public health burden.
¨Our findings raise the possibility that adopting more healthy behaviors may reduce the risk of developing long Covid.¨
It is estimated that 8-23 million Americans suffer from long Covid, which is defined as having Covid-19 symptoms four weeks or more after initial SARS-CoV-2 infection. Symptoms can include fatigue, fever, and a variety of respiratory, heart, neurological, and digestive symptoms.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 32,000 female nurses in the Nurses’ Health Study II, who reported on lifestyle in 2015 and 2017 and reported history of SARS-CoV-2 infection from April 2020 to November 2021.
During that time, more than 1,900 participants contracted Covid-19. Among these, 44% developed long Covid.
Among the six lifestyle factors, maintaining a healthy body weight and getting adequate sleep (seven to nine hours daily) were the ones most strongly associated with lower risk of long Covid.
The results also showed that, even among women who developed long Covid, those with a healthier pre-infection lifestyle had 30% lower risk of having symptoms that interfered with their daily life.
The authors noted that one possible explanation for the associations they observed is that, based on prior research, an unhealthy lifestyle is associated with increased risk of chronic inflammation and immune dysregulation, which have been linked with increased risk of long Covid.