New research indicates that COVID-19 patients, including those with no previous history of high blood pressure, face a significantly higher risk of developing persistent hypertension. This risk seems to be more pronounced in COVID-19 patients than in those with influenza. The findings, which come from a study led by Tim Duong, a vice chair of research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, represent an unprecedented observation in the field.
Duong emphasized that this elevated risk associated with COVID-19 is not limited to patients with severe illness. The study, which followed patients approximately six months after their initial COVID-19 infection, revealed that slightly over 20% of those who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 developed high blood pressure despite no prior history of such issues. This figure reduced to just below 11% among COVID-19 patients who were not hospitalized.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Hypertension on August 21, concentrated on individuals with no pre-existing heart or vascular complications. Researchers analyzed the medical records of more than 45,000 COVID-19 patients, with approximately 28,500 having no prior high blood pressure.
All patients included in the study had contracted COVID-19 between March 2020 and August 2022, and they received follow-up examinations three to nine months after their initial diagnosis. Among the hospitalized COVID-19 patients without a history of high blood pressure, nearly 21% developed persistent hypertension during the follow-up period. Among the non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients with no prior blood pressure concerns, just above 11% exhibited newly developed persistent high blood pressure.
The study compared these results with data from nearly 14,000 influenza patients, with around 11,500 having no history of high blood pressure. The data showed that approximately 16% of influenza patients who had been hospitalized developed persistent high blood pressure during the follow-up period, while just over 4% of non-hospitalized influenza patients did the same.
Factors such as age, gender, and preexisting conditions played a role in the increased risk of persistent high blood pressure, which was particularly common among older adults and those with chronic kidney disease, coronary artery disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
While the reasons behind COVID-19’s impact on blood pressure remain uncertain, researchers speculate that various COVID-19-related factors, including psychological stress, reduced activity levels, poor diets, kidney injury, respiratory problems, and inflammation, could contribute to these changes.
These findings underscore the need for enhanced blood pressure screening and treatment services for COVID-19 patients, both during and after the pandemic. The study’s implications also emphasize the urgency of understanding COVID-19’s long-term effects on public health.
Dr. Davey Smith, an expert in infectious diseases and global public health, stressed the importance of monitoring patients for conditions like hypertension and diabetes after their recovery from COVID-19. He also called for public health agencies to closely track and address long-term health implications associated with the virus.
As the link between COVID-19 and hypertension becomes clearer, healthcare systems are urged to prioritize blood pressure screening, treatment, and ongoing surveillance for a healthier post-pandemic population.