Keeping a lid on blood pressure during the coronavirus crisis

Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is always important, but even more so in the era of COVID-19.

That’s because  high blood pressure might raise your risk of experiencing severe complications from the coronavirus. Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure, or hypertension, which is defined as consistent readings of 130/80 or above.

So far the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says evidence about hypertension in people with the coronavirus is mixed. Some research has found an elevated death rate in COVID-19 patients with high blood pressure. It has also found a higher risk of consequences including being admitted to intensive care or placed on a ventilator, developing pneumonia or having organ and tissue damage.

If you have high blood pressure, here’s what you should know to stay healthy:

Prevention is the best defense

If you have high blood pressure or another underlying condition, it’s especially important to follow recommendations about physical distancing, hand-washing, wearing face coverings and other practices that can prevent COVID-19’s spread.

Follow medical advice

Patients taking common types of blood pressure medicines — angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) — who contract COVID-19 should continue treatment unless otherwise advised by their physician, according to a statement from the American Heart Association, the Heart Failure Society of America and the American College of Cardiology. Consult with your health care provider before changing treatment strategies. Some medical offices are offering virtual, or telemedicine, visits.

Avoid high blood pressure hazards

Various factors can be contributors to high blood pressure. Use extra caution with:

  • Over-the-counter medications. Decongestants and painkillers called NSAIDs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, can increase blood pressure. People with heart concerns should limit or avoid them.
  • Some prescription drugs. People taking corticosteroids, oral birth control, immunosuppressants, mental health drugs and some cancer medications should monitor their blood pressure.
  • Alcohol and caffeine. Limit these — no more than three cups of caffeinated beverages a day, for instance.
  • Herbs and food combinations. Some herbal supplements such as licorice can raise blood pressure, and foods such as cured meats can interact with some antidepressants.

Manage stress

Stress can lead to bad habits, such as poor diet, that can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Have extra medication on hand

Check with your doctor and pharmacy to see whether you can get a larger supply of prescription medications so you don’t have to visit the drugstore as frequently. Mail-order prescriptions might help you stock up and/or stay in.

Recognize a blood pressure emergency

A hypertensive crisis occurs when blood pressure rises quickly to readings of 180/120 or greater. If other symptoms occur — such as chest or back pain, numbness or weakness, loss of vision, or difficulty breathing or speaking — call 911.

Don’t hesitate to reach out

The American Heart Association’s free online Support Network connects people with similar health concerns. (Find “High Blood Pressure” under “Chronic Heart Conditions.”) The American Heart Association is funding new research and connecting researchers and doctors with the latest information.
Get the latest American Heart Association information and recommendations on COVID-19.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information and resources for COVID-19.