Three years into the ongoing pandemic, our understanding of Covid-19’s long-term effects continues to unfold. While we’ve known that patients with preexisting conditions like high blood pressure and asthma were at higher risk for more severe symptoms and death, we’re now learning how those without preexisting conditions fare after recovery. New research suggests a bout with Covid-19 may exacerbate the development of high blood pressure, even in those with no history of it.
A new study performed by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, and published today in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Hypertension, examined data from more than 45,000 Covid-19 patients from various ethnic and racial backgrounds who were diagnosed between March 2020 and August 2022. None of the study participants had a past history of high blood pressure. The researchers then compared the data with similar information from over 13,000 influenza patients diagnosed between January 2018 and August 2022 who also had no history of high blood pressure history. The team found that a higher percentage of Covid-19 patients went on to develop high blood pressure compared to flu patients.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the heart is working harder than usual to circulate blood. Over time, this wears on artery walls. Officially, high blood pressure is a blood pressure reading greater than or equal to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The AHA defines normal blood pressure as less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg.
The researchers found that at a six-month follow-up, new-onset persistent hypertension had emerged in more than 20 percent of hospitalized Covid-19 patients and in more than 10.5 percent of nonhospitalized patients. Respectively, hospitalized Covid-19 patients were more than twice as likely as hospitalized flu patients to develop hypertension, and nonhospitalized Covid-19 patients were more than 1.5 times as likely to develop it. In particular, older adults, Black adults, males, and those with other preexisting conditions like chronic kidney disease had an even higher risk of developing it.
“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,” said senior author Tim Q. Duong, professor of radiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore, in a press release.