According to new research published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, an analysis of electronic medical records for over 45,000 people found that Covid-19 infection was significantly associated with the development of high blood pressure.
“While Covid-19 is typically more severe in patients with preexisting high blood pressure, including higher rates of hospitalisation and mortality compared to people with normal blood pressure, it is unknown whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus may trigger the development of high blood pressure or worsen preexisting hypertension,” said senior study author Tim Q Duong, PhD, professor of radiology and vice chair for radiology research and associate director of Integrative Imaging and Data Science at the Center for Health and Data Innovation at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York City.
This is the first study to compare the development and risk factors associated with persistent high blood pressure in people with Covid-19 infection to influenza, a similar respiratory virus. Hypertension is defined as having top and bottom numbers greater than or equal to 130/80 mm Hg, according to the 2017 ACC/AHA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults.
Data from electronic medical records were analysed at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York, which serves a large, racially and ethnically diverse population.
“Given the sheer number of people affected by Covid-19 compared to influenza, these statistics are alarming and suggest that many more patients will likely develop high blood pressure in the future, which may present a major public health burden,” Duong said. “These findings should heighten awareness to screen at-risk patients for hypertension after Covid-19 illness to enable earlier identification and treatment for hypertension-related complications, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease.”
The authors noted that the people in the study were primarily from communities with low socioeconomic status, which may increase their susceptibility to developing high blood pressure after Covid-19 infection.
Other factors may also have contributed to the development of high blood pressure in the study patients, including the effects of isolation, psychosocial stress, reduced physical activity, unhealthy diet and weight gain during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Researchers also noted that longer follow-up studies will be needed to determine whether the effects of Covid-19-related complications on heart and blood pressure regulation may resolve on their own, or if there may be long-lasting effects on patients’ cardiovascular systems.
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