Has the pandemic increased your blood pressure? You're not alone.

The past year has been difficult. Americans were grappling with a global pandemic, loss of loved ones, blockages that have erupted soci...


The past year has been difficult. Americans were grappling with a global pandemic, loss of loved ones, blockages that have erupted social media, stress, unemployment and depression.

It’s probably not surprising that the country’s blood pressure has risen.

On Monday, scientists reported that blood pressure readings of nearly half a million adults showed a significant increase last year, compared to the previous year.

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

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

“Even small changes in the average blood pressure of the population,” he added, “can have a huge impact on the number of strokes, heart failure events and heart attacks that we have. are likely to see 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 the lives of more than 785,000 Americans and disrupted access to health care, chronic health issues still need to be managed.

Almost half of all American adults have hypertension or high blood pressure, a chronic condition called the “silent killer” because it can have fatal consequences, even if it produces few symptoms.

High blood pressure can also put people at an increased risk of serious illness if they are infected with the coronavirus. (The the evidence for this link is mixed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

The new study, conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Quest Diagnostics, looked at data from hundreds of thousands of employees and their families in wellness programs that tracked blood pressure and other health indicators, such as weight. Participants, from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, included people who had high blood pressure and normal blood pressure at the start of the study.

“We observed that people weren’t getting as much exercise during the pandemic, weren’t receiving regular care, drinking more and sleeping less,” said Dr Luke Laffin, senior author, a preventive cardiologist who is co-director from the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic. “We wanted to know if their blood pressure had changed 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 to December 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is made up of two numbers. The first number refers to the systolic pressure when the heart contracts, and the second number refers to the diastolic pressure when the heart is resting between beats. Normal blood pressure is said to be 120/80 mm Hg or less, although there has been a dispute over the optimal levels for decades.

The new study found that the average monthly change from April 2020 to December 2020, from 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 were true for both men and women, and across all age groups. Greater increases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure have been observed in women.

The average age of the study participants was just over 45, and just over half were women. But critics said that not including information about the race and ethnicity of participants was a significant weakness in the study, as hypertension is much more prevalent among black Americans than whites. or Hispanic Americans.

Blacks have also been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Dr Laffin said information on race and ethnicity was only available for 6% of study participants, so an analysis would not be meaningful.

But there is a big difference between black Americans and white and Hispanic Americans when it comes to hypertension, said Dr. Kim Williams, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and author of the National Blood Pressure Guidelines published in. 2017.

“The state of hypertension has been epidemic in the African American population for decades,” he said. “Our therapies have improved and our attempt to call it has improved, but the gap is widening. And we know that the pandemic has affected different cultures and different aspects of society in different ways. “

The causes of an overall increase in blood pressure are unclear, said Dr Laffin and colleagues. The reasons may include increased alcohol consumption, decreased exercise, increased stress, decreased doctor visits, and decreased adherence to a drug regimen.

The researchers ruled out a possible effect of weight gain, known to raise blood pressure, saying the men in the study lost weight and the women didn’t gain more weight than usual.

But other experts have pointed out that average weight gain figures may mask gains in segments of the population.

“It’s probably multifactorial,” said Dr Lloyd-Jones, referring to the overall increase in blood pressure. “But I think a key piece is that we know that so many people have lost touch with the health care system and have lost control of blood pressure and diabetes.”

Americans need to pay more attention to overall health and managing the underlying medical conditions despite the pandemic, Dr Laffin said, adding that the penalty for not doing so could outlive the coronavirus itself.

“There are also public health consequences of not seeing your doctor regularly, making poor food choices and not exercising,” he said. “If we think about the long term implications, it is potentially deeper.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Has the pandemic increased your blood pressure? You're not alone.
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