Blood pressure rose moderately during the early months of the pandemic, according to a University of Texas Southwestern study of patients who monitored themselves at home.
“People were less active, ate more, and drank more (alcoholic beverages) during the pandemic, all of which led to higher blood pressure,” said Eric Peterson, MD and lead author of the study. “COVID made it challenging for people to see their doctors and have their medications adjusted.”
The study, published in the American Heart Journal, found that rates of uncontrolled high blood pressure went from 15% to 19%, though only 5% had severely uncontrolled blood pressure (defined as systolic blood pressure greater than 160 mm/hg).
Dr. Peterson said that while these changes appear modest, they are significant, as slight changes in blood pressure control at the population level can have tremendous consequences downstream. Additionally, as the study looked at only those patients in a hypertension management program who were already concerned about their health, he suspects greater changes in blood pressure may be seen in the general population.
The study examined data of 72,706 patients across the United States enrolled in a blood pressure disease management program administered by a digital health company. Researchers compared readings from April-August 2020 with data taken before the pandemic, January 2019-March 2019.