According to experts, studies show increased blood pressure during pandemic times. Learn how it may impact your health.
According to recently published research, there is an association between the COVID-19 pandemic and hypertension among middle-aged American adults. The study shows that nearly half of U.S. adults have hypertension and about 75% remain above the recommended levels. Moreover, the study points to a negative impact on healthy lifestyle behaviors as pandemic stay-at-home orders took place.
“At the start of the pandemic, most people were not taking good care of themselves,” says lead study author Luke J. Laffin, MD. “Increases in blood pressure were likely related to changes in eating habits, increased alcohol consumption, less physical activity, decreased medication adherence, more emotional stress and poor sleep.”
Laffin states that “we know that even small rises in blood pressure increase one’s risk of stroke and other adverse cardiovascular disease events.” Laffin is the co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.
Analyzing the Results
The researchers used de-identified health data from an employee wellness program to analyze blood pressure changes before and during the pandemic. Furthermore, the data included about half-million adults across the U.S. who measured their levels during an employee screening. The screenings took place every year from 2018 to 2020.
Participants were divided into four groups: normal, elevated, hypertension stage 1, and hypertension stage 2. According to their analysis, women had a higher increase in blood pressure for both systolic and diastolic readings.
In addition, older participants had a higher increase in systolic and younger participants in diastolic blood pressure. They also found that more participants were re-categorized to a higher blood pressure category from April to December 2020.
“From a public health perspective, during a pandemic, getting vaccinated and wearing a mask are important,” says Laffin. “However, the results of our research reinforce the need to also be mindful of chronic health conditions such as the worsening of blood pressure.”
Laffin also explains that “even in the midst of the pandemic, it’s important to pay attention to your blood pressure and your chronic medical conditions. Get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. See your doctor regularly to learn how to manage your cardiovascular risk factors.”
Furthermore, the researchers are planning on a follow-up study that compares these results with 2021 measurements. The study authors note that the study may not be representative of adults who didn’t participate in an employee wellness program.
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