- Researchers say people with high blood pressure have a higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
- They add the type of medication used by study participants didn’t appear to have an impact.
- Experts say having normal blood pressure is good for overall health as well as specific conditions and the risk of heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, according to a studyTrusted Source published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers, in fact, said they found that high blood pressure is one of the most common comorbidities in people with COVID-19.
The scientists analyzed the health records of 16,134 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. They reported that high blood pressure was almost twice as prevalent in severe and fatal cases of COVID-19 than in COVID-19 cases overall cases
Of the people studied, 48% of severe or fatal COVID-19 cases had high blood pressure while 25% of all people with COVID-19 had the condition.
The study findings also included:
- This risk increased for people with uncontrolled blood pressure despite treatment.
- The odds of COVID-19 did not change based on the medication given to treat high blood pressure.
People with a systolic blood pressure reading of 150 to 159 mmHg were associated with a 91% higher risk of severe COVID-19 when compared to those with a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 129 mmHg. There was no evidence of a higher risk of severe COVID-19 until the reading exceeded 150mmHg.
Other findings included:
- Low blood pressure, which could indicate an underlying disease, was associated with a 40% higher risk of severe COVID-19 when compared to standard blood pressure readings.
- Those with a history of stroke had a 47% higher chance of severe COVID-19.
- Those with a history of cardiovascular comorbidities had a 30% higher risk of severe COVID-19.
The scientists suggest that other factors could influence the severity of COVID-19 beyond a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
For example, individuals with higher systolic blood pressure could be generally less healthy and less active. Their hypertension might have also damaged their cardiovascular system.
Blood pressure medications didn’t affect COVID-19 risk
“One of the stated purposes of this study was to determine if certain blood pressure medications affected COVID-19 outcomes. They did not,” Dr, David Cutler, a family medicine physician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California, told Healthline.
Antihypertensive medications were broadly comparable between those with and without severe COVID-19, indicating no correlation between the severity of COVID-19 and the type of high blood pressure medication used. However, statins and anticoagulants were more prevalent among individuals with severe COVID-19.
“One of the most useful aspects of the findings was that there was no relationship ascertained between anti-hypertension drug classes and COVID-19 severity,” Dr. Fady Youssef, a pulmonologist, internist, and critical care specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center in California, told Healthline.
The two major classes of medications to treat high blood pressure are angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
Reducing the risk of severe COVID-19
“In our own families, medical practices, and communities, we may have noticed the same results as the study to be true,” Cutler said.
“Those with medical comorbidities are more likely to suffer the effects of COVID. But that is nothing new. We have always noted that older, sicker people are more likely to be hospitalized and die after getting COVID,” he added.
“What we can say with certainty is that people with normal blood pressure enjoy fewer health complications than people with high blood pressure,” noted Cutler.
Blood pressure and overall health
Experts say taking steps to control your blood pressure is essential for reducing your risk of severe COVID-19 and for your overall health.
“You can control hypertension with medication, weight loss, healthy eating habits, and not smoking,” Dr. Saurabh Rajpal, a cardiologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline.
“It is also essential to inform your doctor about any family history of heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes,” he added. “In general, people with fewer cardiovascular risk factors generally do better when faced with an infection like COVID.”
Experts say controlling your blood pressure is also essential in reducing your chance of dying from a heart attack or a stroke.
And now COVID-19 can be added to that list.
“But one thing we have learned about COVID is that the most crucial protection from dying of COVID is getting vaccinated,” Cutler said. “Another is taking protective measures to avoid getting COVID in the first place. This will not only prevent dying of COVID, but it may also keep you from getting the chronic complications of the disease, which we know as long COVID.”