High blood pressure patients may be at greater risk to COVID-19 symptoms

Individuals dealing with high blood pressure could be among those at greater risk to COVID-19.

Ankit Chothani, M.D., a specialist in interventional and peripheral endovascular cardiology with Oklahoma Heart Institute, said people impacted by high blood pressure can be more suspectable to contracting the virus and possibly suffering longer-term symptoms.

“These changes can make patients with uncontrolled hypertension more susceptible to acquire the COVID-19 virus,” Chothani said. “In some scenarios, it can also lead to a dangerous overreaction of the immune system. Close monitoring and strict control of blood pressure becomes more important.”

According to Chothani, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines suggest heart conditions like coronary artery disease and high blood pressure can make a person more likely to develop severe COVID-19 infection, an increased risk of both ICU admission and death. 

“A weak immune system and poor cardiac reserve are likely responsible for these findings,” Chothani said.

Chothani quoted CDC data that estimates nearly half of adults in the United States (108 million or 45%) have high blood pressure.

Chothani said recent data is not available to determine if the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in overall prevalence of high blood pressure in the United States. High blood pressure is commonly referred to as the “silent killer” because it is largely symptomless in many patients, according to Chothani. He suggests a regular blood pressure screening for all adults.

“Blood pressure should be measured at every physician office visit or health care encounter,” Chothani said. “It should be at least checked once a year in all adults and more frequently in patients with risk factors like smoking, diabetes, kidney disease and family history. If blood pressure is 130/80 or higher on two different occasions at least four weeks apart, a patient should reach out to health care provider for further assistance and monitoring.”

Not all hope is lost when it comes to high blood pressure. Chothani said high blood pressure can be prevented by modifying or eliminating certain possible risk factors. Regular physical activity, weight control, smoking cessation, stress reduction, low-sodium diets and treating obstructive sleep apnea are considered effective prevention steps.

Your heart care shouldn’t wait. To make an appointment with Dr. Chothani or another cardiology specialist at Oklahoma Heart Institute, please call 918-592-0999.