Can high blood pressure be a risk factor for Covid-19? Yes, it can.
High blood pressure is a known risk factor for a Covid-19 attack severe enough to necessitate hospitalization and death. Research has concluded that even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted, having high blood pressure doubles your risk of having a severe case of Covid.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), and it consists of two numbers: an upper or systolic reading, which represents the maximum amount of pressure in your arteries, and a lower or diastolic reading, which means the tension in your arteries when your heart muscle is at rest between beats.
But what constitutes a high enough blood pressure reading to put one at risk? Scientists are still uncertain. However, a new study from England published in the journal PLOS One has provided an answer to that question.
“We found that in those with diagnosed hypertension, the risk of Covid-19 significantly increased once the high number exceeded 150 mmHg or the low number exceeded 90 mmHg compared to a target blood pressure (120-129/80-89 mmHg),” said lead author Holly Pavey, a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom who the British Heart Foundation funds, via email.
According to the study, regardless of other known risk factors like age, ethnicity, or obesity, people with this uncontrolled high blood pressure are more likely to be hospitalized and die from a Covid infection.
The inherent integration in the UK National Health Service allowed the new study to focus on and be more precise. According to Dr Joseph Ebinger, an assistant professor of cardiology and the director of clinical analytics at the Smidt Heart Institute at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, this level of data sharing gives patients access to “really granular data on long-term blood pressure control.“
According to Ebinger, who was not involved in the study, “they found out it is not just the diagnosis of high blood pressure, but that the risk increases as your systolic blood pressure increases, which is really a measure of lack of control.”
Unfortunately, even after being diagnosed and taking medication, Ebinger added that many people fail to control their blood pressure correctly.
“It’s estimated that less than half of people with high blood pressure have control over their hypertension, so this is a big problem,” he said. “This is due to various factors, including underdiagnosis, a lack of awareness, medication nonadherence, and inadequate treatment.”
On the bright side, successfully lowering blood pressure with medication was associated with a lower risk of severe Covid.
“It is critical for individuals to have regular blood pressure checks and for doctors to try to control their patients’ blood pressure,” Pavey said.
“Regardless of the type of treatment used to achieve it, controlling blood pressure to target levels is important,” she said. “Ultimately, blood pressure control will help to reduce the risk of future severe illness caused by new strains of Covid-19 or other viruses.”
The bottom line is to check your blood pressure frequently and consult your doctor regularly.