You’ve heard that you’re at high risk for severe symptoms from COVID-19 if you’re 65 years or older, have chronic lung disease or diabetes or are immunocompromised. A new study shows one other underlying condition, previously known to make symptoms worse if you contract coronavirus, can actually increase your chances of death: high blood pressure.
“Soon after we started to treat COVID-19 patients in early February in Wuhan, we noticed that nearly half of the patients who died had high blood pressure, which was a much higher percentage compared to those with only mild COVID-19 symptoms,” said Ling Tao of the department of cardiology at Xijing Hospital in Xian, China. The team of researchers, led by Fei Li and Tao, and also including researchers from the National University of Ireland Galway, published their findings in the European Heart Journal.
“An estimated 103 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure, according to new statistics from the American Heart Association,” says heart.org. “That’s nearly half of all adults in the United States.”
Their Findings Show It Can Be Fatal
The scientists reviewed the records of nearly 3,000 patients in Wuhan, the initial epicenter of COVID-19. A bit under 30% of them had high blood pressure, and of those, 4% died. (1.1% of those with normal blood pressure died.) Not to mention, “Patients with a history of hypertension but without antihypertensive treatment were associated with a significantly higher risk of mortality compared with those with antihypertensive treatments”—in other words, 7.9% died when they stopped taking their heart medication.
“The researchers then pooled data from three other studies involving nearly 2,300 patients to investigate the role played by RAAS inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly used to treat blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs, in COVID-19 death risk,” reports the BBC. “They found the risk of death to be lower among the patients who took RAAS inhibitors compared with those treated with other drugs such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) or diuretics.”
“In contrast to our initial hypothesis, we found that RAAS inhibitors, such as ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, were not linked to an increased risk of dying from COVID-19 and, in fact, may be protective,” said Professor Li. “Therefore, we suggest that patients should not discontinue or change their usual antihypertensive treatment unless instructed by a physician.”
What Can You Do?
“People with underlying conditions such as cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, immunosuppressed patients and older people are more likely to develop serious illness,” says Dr. Monika Stuczen, FIBMS, a Medical Microbiologist and R&D and QC Laboratory Manager at MWE. If you have any of those conditions, contact your medical professional the moment you experience any COVID-19 symptoms.
“It is important that patients with high blood pressure realize that they are at increased risk of dying from COVID-19,” says Li. “They should take good care of themselves during this pandemic and they need more attention if they are infected with the coronavirus.”
As for yourself: To get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don’t miss these Things You Should Never Do During the Coronavirus Pandemic.