As we navigate the COVID-19 global pandemic, it is clear that older adults and people with underlying medical conditions are at greater risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the US have been in adults 65 and older. People with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes are also prone to develop more serious complications from COVID-19, but what about high blood pressure? Does high blood pressure affect COVID-19 outcomes?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is highly prevalent in the United States, affecting more 100 million Americans. It is a condition that disproportionately affects many of our communities, particularly African Americans and American Indian and Alaska Natives. During this unprecedented time, researchers have taken an interest in studying the relationship between high blood pressure and COVID-19 outcomes. An early study out of Wuhan, China followed 41 COVID-19 patients and revealed that 32% had underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension or high blood pressure. A more recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed 201 people who developed COVID-19. Of those 201 people, 84 developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ADRS) from COVID-19 and of those who developed ARDS, 27.4% had hypertension.
While these studies have demonstrated that a substantial number of people who developed more serious complications from COVID-19 also had hypertension, these associations do not demonstrate that hypertension lead to more serious complications from COVID-19. The truth is, hypertension is common among many people, and even moreso among older adults.
Currently, there is no solid evidence to support the association between high blood pressure and COVID-19 outcomes. In a recent article on the American Journal of Hypertension, the authors conclude “There is as yet no evidence that hypertension is related to outcomes of COVID-19, or that ACE inhibitor or ARB use is harmful, or for that matter beneficial, during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Further studies are needed to determine the causality and the mechanisms between high blood pressure and COVID-19.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.