Is there any relation between COVID-19 pandemic and high blood pressure? Well, a new study has shown that blood pressure levels increased among middle-aged adults across the United States during the pandemic.
In the new report in American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, the researchers said that during the pandemic (April to December 2020), average increases in blood pressure each month ranged from 1.10 to 2.50 mm Hg higher for systolic blood pressure and 0.14 to 0.53 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure, compared to the same time period in 2019. Systolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls with each contraction and diastolic blood pressure means the bottom number in a blood pressure.
The researchers found that blood pressure measures were largely unchanged before the pandemic.
YOUTH AND BLOOD PRESSURE
According to the researchers, nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, which is a leading cause of heart disease. In almost 75 per cent of all cases, they remain above the recommended blood pressure levels. Stay at-home orders were implemented across the US between March and April 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a shift to remote health care for numerous chronic health conditions including high blood pressure and had a negative impact on healthy lifestyle behaviours for many people, the researchers said.
The study also found a higher increase in blood pressure measures among women for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, among older participants for systolic blood pressure, and in younger participants for diastolic blood pressure. During the lockdown period, the researchers said more participants (26.8%) were re-categorized to a higher blood pressure category, while only 22% of participants moved to a lower blood pressure category.
NOT MUCH CARE
Lead study author Luke J Laffin pointed out that most people at the beginning of the pandemic were not taking good care of themselves. He is the co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
For the study, the researchers accessed de-identified health data from an employee wellness program (included employees and spouses/partners) to assess changes in blood pressure levels before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The data included nearly a half million adults across the United States. The average age was 46 years and 54 per cent were women who had their blood pressure measured during an employee health screening every year from 2018 through 2020, Participants were categorized into four groups: normal, elevated, stage 1 hypertension and stage 2 hypertension based on the current American Heart Association blood pressure guidelines.
The researchers compared monthly average blood pressures between 2018 and 2019 and blood pressure measures in January through March 2019 to January through March 2020 (pre-pandemic). They then reviewed blood pressure changes comparing April to December 2020 (during the pandemic) to April to December 2019 (pre-pandemic).
Though the people are cautious of wearing facemask and getting vaccinated against the pandemic. They gave less importance to chronic health conditions such as the worsening of blood pressure, Laffin said. “Even in the midst of the pandemic, it’s important to pay attention to your blood pressure and your chronic medical conditions. Get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. See your doctor regularly to learn how to manage your cardiovascular risk factors,” the lead author said.