What to Know About Hypertension and COVID-19

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Hypertension—or high blood pressure—is the most common comorbidity among COVID-19 patients, but it remains unclear whether uncontrolled high blood pressure is a risk factor for infection.

What we do know is that blood pressure control is key to reducing disease burden, even if there may be no effect on the susceptibility to COVID-19. This is because hypertension puts you at higher risk of cardiovascular, coronary artery, and kidney disease.

Research also shows that those with uncontrolled high blood pressure are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 infection.

woman getting her blood pressure taken

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Hypertension and COVID-19 Risk

Although data is limited, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that adults of any age with high blood pressure might be at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Uncontrolled hypertension has been found to:

  • Lower your immunity: High blood pressure can lower your immune system, thereby increasing your risk of contracting an infectious disease like COVID-19.
  • Increase the risk of lung injury: Uncontrolled high blood pressure has also been found to increase the severity of lung injury and mortality in those afflicted with COVID-19.
  • Increase the chance of hospital exposure: Hypertensive crisis events can land you in the hospital, putting you in greater contact with the virus and making it more likely that you will contract the disease.

Researchers have identified those with hypertension as high risk for developing severe COVID-19. This puts those with hypertension in the same risk category as those with pre-existing conditions like:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes

Hypertension in High-Risk Groups

Hypertension is an especially important area of investigation because it is exceedingly frequent in older adults and those who are overweight,  which are two high-risk groups that are at particular risk of being infected with COVID-19.

You can begin lowering your blood pressure and weight by:

  • Eating a low sodium diet
  • Avoiding alcohol
  • Engaging in routine exercise

Doing this could secondarily lower your risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Complications of Hypertension and COVID-19

If high blood pressure is left untreated, it will undoubtedly lead to other health issues like:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Dementia

The health impacts of high blood pressure can be hard to see sometimes because the initial symptoms are insidious in nature. Oftentimes when symptoms are felt it's already too late.

Because COVID-19 attacks many of the same tissues and organ systems impacted by high blood pressure, it can be difficult to differentiate between hypertension and COVID-19.

Research shows that COVID-19 can create a procoagulation state in the body, which leads to blood clots and vessel rupture. Hypertension similarly leads to vessel rupture in the heart and brain, when chronically damaged vessels are no longer able to support the pressure of the blood flowing through your arteries. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you feel any one of these symptoms, it's important to seek immediate medical attention:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduced exercise capacity
  • New onset or sudden headache
  • Chest pain
  • Sharpe cognitive declines

These could be symptoms of poorly controlled blood pressure and/or COVID-19.

Hypertension Treatments and COVID-19

We are still learning about COVID-19, but currently, there is no evidence that blood pressure medications make you more likely to get COVID-19 or become seriously ill from it. In fact, stopping your medications might cause more harm, by worsening your symptoms, especially if you catch COVID-19.

Remember that your blood pressure medications help prevent heart attacks, dangerous heart rhythms, strokes, and other complications so keep taking them during the pandemic and beyond. These medications include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
  • Angiotensin inhibitors (ACE-I)

Early during the pandemic, there was concern that ACE-Is and ARBs could increase the number of ACE2 receptors, potentially aiding in viral replication. However, those reports have since been refuted. In fact, new data has found that these medications may be protective against the virus. 

Of note, a University of Pennsylvania Medicine-led study, the REPLACE COVID trial, found that blood pressure medications were neither beneficial nor harmful in the treatment of hospitalized patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does taking my blood pressure medication increase my risk of catching COVID-19?

No. Early in the pandemic, some media outlets reported that there were concerns about taking certain blood pressure drugs, like ACE inhibitors, because it was thought that these drugs could alter the receptors on our lung cells, making it easier for them to catch coronavirus. This has since been proven to be untrue. If you are taking an ACE inhibitor or another blood pressure medication such as an ARB or beta-blocker, you should continue to do so unless advised not to by your doctor.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I have hypertension?

Yes. When it comes to getting vaccinated, benefits far outweigh the risks for people with cardiovascular issues. Of note, prior to taking the vaccine, you are advised to take your blood pressure medications, such as ACE-Inhibitors, beta-blockers, or blood thinners, before attending your vaccination appointment, especially if you have cardiovascular complications like cardiac chest pain or angina.

Is it safe for people with hypertension to get any type of vaccine?

Yes. Currently, there is no data that precludes you from getting any of the available vaccines.

How to Stay Safe

Taking your medication as prescribed and tracking your blood pressure are keys to living a heart healthy life. 

To prevent hypertension:

  • Exercise
  • Eat heart-healthy foods like colorful vegetables and whole grains
  • Lose weight
  • Exercise
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Quit smoking

Strict adherence to social distancing protocols further lowers your risk of catching the coronavirus. These include:

  • Limiting the number of people you come into contact with
  • Wearing a mask, especially around people
  • Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Wiping surfaces with sanitation wipes

If you are taking blood pressure medications without major side effects continue to take them unless told to do so otherwise by a healthcare professional. Preliminary research data has also shown that people with untreated high blood pressure are at greater risk of complications from COVID-19 than those whose high blood pressure is managed with medication.

A Word From Verywell

Preventive health measures like wearing a mask, hand washing, limiting social contact and distancing yourself at least 6 feet from others are the best ways to limit the transmission of COVID-19.

You should also remain on your regular medication regimen unless advised otherwise by a healthcare professional. The CDC strongly suggests that those with hypertension take the vaccine as soon as they can. Taking the vaccine has been shown to decrease the severity of disease which means your heart and blood vessels will not have to work as hard to meet the body’s demands.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed. As new research becomes available, we’ll update this article. For the latest on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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