Covid-19 may cause high blood pressure in those previously unaffected by the disorder, a new study suggests.
The ‘alarming’ research found that of more than 45,000 patients attending hospital due Covid with no history of hypertension, a significant number went on to develop high blood pressure within six months.
In addition, people over 40, men, Black adults and those with a range of pre-existing conditions had an elevated risk of developing the condition.
The study, published in the journal Hypertension, analysed the records of patients presenting at hospital with Covid and influenza in the Bronx, a large, racially and ethnically diverse population.
It found that after six months, 21% of people hospitalised with Covid and 11% of those who were not hospitalised for Covid developed high blood pressure. This compared to 16% of people hospitalised with flu and 4% of those not hospitalised for flu.
‘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,’ said senior author Dr Tim Q Duong, from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
‘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.’
Blood pressure is recorded by measuring the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is pumping blood around the body and the pressure between heartbeats, known as the systolic and diastolic pressure. For healthy blood pressure, the two numbers should be no higher than 120/80.
Readings between 121/81 and 139/89 suggest an individual is at risk of hypertension, while a reading above 140/90 is considered high blood pressure.
Dr Duong also highlighted that Covid is typically more severe in patients who already have high blood pressure.
The authors did note that individuals in the study were primarily from communities with low socioeconomic status, which may increase their susceptibility to developing high blood pressure after Covid.
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 pandemic.
In addition, the team stressed the need for further research to determine if Covid-related high blood pressure was resolved on its own, or whether it will present a long-lasting effect on patient health and stress on the health system.
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