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COVID-19 and high blood pressure: Cause for concern?

Dr. Dave Dixon answers your questions about COVID-19 and high blood pressure.

Woman getting her blood pressure checked Photo: Getty Images

By Konrad Solberg

While the relationship between high blood pressure and COVID-19 is still being studied, there’s evidence that high blood pressure increases your risk of infection and the severity of symptoms. Dr. Dave Dixon, associate professor at the VCU School of Pharmacy and affiliate faculty at the VCU Health Pauley Heart Center, spoke with us about the effect high blood pressure can have on COVID-19.

Dave DixonDoes high blood pressure increase your risk of getting COVID-19?

Yes, having high blood pressure, especially if untreated or not well controlled, is associated with increased risk of infection. It’s not quite clear as to why or how, but chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and obesity, can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.

Does your blood pressure play a role in how ill you’ll get?

It’s not entirely clear, but it does seem that uncontrolled blood pressure is linked to more severe COVID-19.

If you get COVID-19, can it affect your blood pressure?

It really depends. Infection places your body under significant stress, so an increase or decrease in blood pressure may occur — especially if the infection worsens your kidney function.

Can your blood pressure meds affect the severity of COVID-19?

The short answer is no. There was some concern early on that certain groups of drugs, ACE inhibitors and ARBs, may increase the risk of COVID-19 infection by increasing the availability of binding sites for the virus. However, randomized trials have concluded that ACE inhibitors and ARBS are safe to use.

What are the best ways to control your blood pressure if you get COVID-19?

Monitor your blood pressure if you are at home, but make sure you are using a monitor that’s validated. This just means the monitor has been verified to be clinically accurate. The website validatebp.org is a great resource, as well as your local pharmacist. Second, continue to take your blood pressure medications as prescribed unless your doctor says otherwise. Lastly, stay well hydrated and follow a heart-healthy diet.

What are the best ways people with blood pressure problems can protect themselves from getting COVID-19?

Get vaccinated! The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available now, so if you have not gotten it, check with your local pharmacy or health department and get vaccinated.

If you’re worried about the safety of visiting your doctor’s office at this time, what should you do?

Try remote patient monitoring. You’ll receive your own blood pressure monitor, and you can then check your blood pressure from home. Then, you either manually enter or automatically upload the results to a dashboard your provider can see.

Some patients have skipped their regular checkups for chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure, but that isn’t healthy. If you haven’t had a checkup in the last 6- 12 months, it may be a good idea to follow up with your provider. You may be able to use telehealth and visit over your phone or computer.

Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect your blood pressure?

The COVID-19 vaccine does not appear to directly affect blood pressure. However, a very small number of individuals may experience an increase in their blood pressure if they are extremely anxious or have a strong pain response when they get the vaccine. Alternatively, a sudden drop in blood pressure could occur in the very rare case of a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine (anaphylaxis). In either case, waiting 10-15 minutes after receiving the vaccine is reasonable, as these very rare reactions usually occur within minutes of getting the vaccine.

Will the vaccine impact the effectiveness of your blood pressure meds?

Based on the available evidence at this time, no.

Are people with high blood pressure more likely to experience adverse reactions to the vaccine?

Based on the available evidence at this time, no.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

There are generally no quick fixes for high blood pressure. It is a chronic disease that requires management over many years to prevent the complications of coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and heart failure. But by following a heart healthy lifestyle, working closely with your health care team, and taking your medications every day as prescribed, high blood pressure can be well managed and your risk of complications can be significantly reduced.

For more information

For a variety of news and information on COVID-19 and how VCU Health is keeping patients safe, please visit our COVID-19 News Center

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