The Link Between High Blood Pressure and Severe COVID
by Amy Barczy
| 3 min read
Do you know your blood pressure?
Health experts believe there is a possible connection between high blood pressure and severe illness from COVID-19.
A recent study conducted in Los Angeles found having high blood pressure more than doubled a person’s risk for hospitalization from illness caused by Omicron variants of COVID-19. According to the study, high blood pressure contributed to an increased risk of severe illness for people who were otherwise healthy without chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease or heart failure. Similar findings were supported by other international studies.
Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. – about 103 million people – have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
As new Omicron variants emerge, it is important to prioritize heart health and control high blood pressure to reduce the risk of serious illness due to COVID-19.
What is a high blood pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects the blood vessels and is a measure of the work your heart has to do to pump blood through your body. High blood pressure can lead to complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney problems and dementia.
Many people do not have symptoms when their blood pressure is high and are diagnosed for the first time during a routine visit or when a complication occurs.
Blood pressure screening should begin at age 18 with follow up every 1-2 years depending on your risk factors. According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 mmHg (systolic) and less than 80 mmHg (diastolic). You would say, “120 over 80,” and write “120/80.”
People with high blood pressure require more frequent follow up to monitor treatment and development of potential complications. A blood pressure reading higher than a systolic of 180 mmHg and a diastolic of 120 mmHg is considered a hypertensive crisis and means you should seek medical help right away.
How to handle high blood pressure
The first step to dealing with a diagnosis of high blood pressure is discussing treatment options with your doctor. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle changes like losing weight and improving your diet. In some cases, your doctor might also prescribe medication to manage your high blood pressure.
There is no quick cure for high blood pressure, but making changes to your everyday habits can help you manage it and keep your heart healthy:
- Live a healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity and a nutritious diet
- Stop smoking
- Eat less salt
- Reduce extra stress
- Get better sleep
- Limit alcohol
- Get vaccinated
For those at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, preventing infection from the virus is especially important. COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available. Everyone aged six months old and up is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. Updated booster vaccines that include the Omicron variant are available for adults and children over the age of 5.
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