Covid-19 Raised Our Blood Pressure

(p. A12) On Monday [Dec. 6, 2021], scientists reported that blood pressure measurements of nearly a half-million adults showed a significant rise last year, compared with the previous year.

These measurements describe the pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries. Over time, increased pressure can damage the heart, the brain, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes. Sexual function can also be affected.

“These are very important data that are not surprising, but are shocking,” said Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, who was not involved in the study.

“Even small changes in average blood pressure in the population,” he added, “can have a huge impact on the number of strokes, heart failure events and heart attacks that we’re likely to be seeing in the coming months.”

The study, published as a research letter in the journal Circulation, is a stark reminder that even in the midst of a pandemic that has claimed more than 785,000 American lives and disrupted access to health care, chronic health conditions must still be managed.

. . .

“We observed that people weren’t exercising as much during the pandemic, weren’t getting regular care, were drinking more and sleeping less,” said Dr. Luke Laffin, the lead author, a preventive cardiologist who is co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic. “We wanted to know, was their blood pressure changing during the pandemic?”

The researchers found that blood pressure readings changed little from 2019 to the first three months of 2020, but increased significantly from April 2020 through December 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.

. . .

The new study found that the average monthly change from April 2020 to December 2020, compared with the previous year, was 1.10 mm Hg to 2.50 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure, and 0.14 to 0.53 for diastolic blood pressure.

The increases held true for both men and women, and in all age groups. Larger increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were seen in women.

The average age of the study participants was just over 45, and slightly more than half were women.

. . .

The causes of an overall increase in blood pressure are not clear, Dr. Laffin and his colleagues said. The reasons may include an increase in alcohol consumption, a decline in exercise, rising stress, a drop in doctors’ visits and less adherence to a medication regimen.

The researchers dismissed a possible effect of weight gain, known to raise blood pressure, saying that the men in the study had lost weight and that the women had not gained more weight than usual.

For the full story, see:

Roni Caryn Rabin. “Does the Pandemic Have Your Blood Pressure Rising? You’re Not Alone.” The New York Times (Tuesday, December 7, 2021): A12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 6, 2021, and has the title “The Pandemic Has Your Blood Pressure Rising? You’re Not Alone.”)

The study summarized above is:

Laffin, Luke J., Harvey W. Kaufman, Zhen Chen, Justin K. Niles, Andre R. Arellano, Lance A. Bare, and Stanley L. Hazen. “Rise in Blood Pressure Observed among Us Adults During the Covid-19 Pandemic.” Circulation (2021) Published online:

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