It's been heavily noted since the coronavirus pandemic took hold of New Jersey that individuals with underlying health conditions have a harder time fighting off COVID-19 once it's been contracted.

But health professionals also suggest certain individuals may be less likely than others to get infected in the first place. It means making a number of life choices that, for many people, are easier said than done.

"Eat lots of fresh fruits, eat lots of fresh vegetables, exercise every day and stay as thin as you can," said Dr. Michael Cascarina, president-elect of the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians.

The risk of severe illness is greater for individuals with obesity and/or Type 2 diabetes. So a diet consisting of less processed products and more natural foods, and a steady exercise regimen, would not only make a patient better off after contracting the virus; it can make them less likely to become a positive case, Cascarina said.

But, adherence to specific COVID-19 safety measures, such as social distancing and hand washing, is said to reduce anyone's likelihood of contracting COVID-19, no matter their health history.

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Cascarina's office in Brick Township has been seeing "quite a bit" of COVID-19 recently. His patients today don't appear to be getting as sick, but the patient pool is also much younger than what it was back in the spring, he said.

Getting the "proper amount of vitamins and minerals" that's provided by natural foods can help one fight off not only viruses, but bacteria and fungi as well, better than those who may not have the most nutritional diet, he said.

Supplements meant to deliver vitamins and minerals, such as Zinc and vitamin A, are not also expected to completely take the place of whole foods, experts note.

"Taking vitamin C isn’t the same as consuming oranges, peppers, or broccoli," Melissa Wadolowski, a registered dietitian with New Jersey-based Jefferson Health, said in a May 2020 post about boosting immunity.

A fellow dietitian on the post, Melissa Parisi, suggested people "spice up" their foods with whole seasonings, not just salt and pepper.

“Try using more garlic, turmeric, or ginger, which provide natural flavors, and extra anti-inflammatory properties," Parisi said.

According to the state Department of Health, cardiovascular disease was an issue for 58% of the lab-confirmed COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey so far. Diabetes mellitus impacted about 44% of those who died from COVID-19.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com

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