DALLAS — COVID-19 may lead to the onset of severe high blood pressure, according to a concerning new study. Research involving over 45,000 hospitalized patients with the virus revealed a notable link between COVID-19 and the onset of consistently high blood pressure among those previously unaffected by the condition.
Individuals infected with COVID-19 who had no history of hypertension were more susceptible to developing consistent high blood pressure than those infected with the influenza virus. The risk of developing hypertension was found to be higher among COVID-19 patients who were over 40, male, Black, or had pre-existing conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), coronary artery disease, or chronic kidney disease.
The researchers emphasize that this was the first study comparing this development and risk factors of persistent high blood pressure between COVID-19 and influenza patients, a comparable respiratory virus.
“While COVID-19 is typically more severe in patients with preexisting high blood pressure, including higher rates of hospitalization and mortality compared to people with normal blood pressure,” says Professor Tim Duong, the study’s senior author from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in New York City, in a media release. “It is unknown whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus may trigger the development of high blood pressure or worsen preexisting hypertension.”
For clarity, hypertension, or high blood pressure, is defined as a reading equal to or surpassing 130/80 mm Hg.
The data was sourced from electronic medical records at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York, serving a diverse population in terms of race and ethnicity. The research considered 45,398 COVID-19 patients hospitalized from March 2020 to February 2022 and 13,864 influenza patients without COVID-19, hospitalized from January 2018 to February 2021. These patients had subsequent interactions with the hospital system for various medical reasons.
The findings showed that 21 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 and 11 percent of those not hospitalized with COVID-19 developed hypertension. In comparison, only 16 percent of those hospitalized with influenza and four percent of those not hospitalized with the flu exhibited similar outcomes. Patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 were over twice as likely to develop persistent hypertension compared to their counterparts with influenza.
“Given the sheer number of people affected by COVID-19 compared to influenza, these statistics are alarming and suggest that many more patients will likely develop high blood pressure in the future, which may present a major public health burden,” says Prof. Duong. “These findings should heighten awareness to screen at-risk patients for hypertension after COVID-19 illness to enable earlier identification and treatment for hypertension-related complications, such as cardiovascular and kidney disease.”
These findings are published in the medical journal Hypertension.
South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.