CLEVELAND — Editor's note: Video in the player at the top of this story was originally published in a previous COVID-19 story from Dec. 2, 2021.
Adults worldwide have struggled with the burdens of the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly two years.
Now, according to a new study from Cleveland Clinic, there are concerns that the pandemic is causing a rise in blood pressure in adults.
The study analyzed 450,000 people from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The research found that there has been a significant increase in blood pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results of the study were published Monday morning in Circulation.
“We know that in addition to poor diet, inactivity and, lack of sleep, other lifestyle factors such as stress increase blood pressure,” said Luke Laffin, M.D., study author and co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders in the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic. “As we begin to look into the psychological and physical toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to see what type of effect the pandemic may have had on people’s blood pressure.”
The analysis for the study came from an employer-sponsored wellness program that Quest Diagnostics put on. The data from Quest Diagnostic’s results showed that from April to December of 2020, there was a substantial increase in blood pressure readings compared to the same time in 2019.
In those months during 2020, the mean increase ranged from 1.10 to 2.50 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 0.15 to 0.53 Hg for diastolic blood pressure. The increase in blood pressure was seen across both genders and ages, but the most significant increase was in women.
"The rise in blood pressure revealed by our Health Trends data raise concerns that many Americans are at risk for cardiovascular events. Since elevated blood pressure is often undetectable until the worst outcomes occur, individuals who delayed preventive care during the pandemic may be at risk and not even know it,” said Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., Senior Medical Director, Head of the Health Trends Research Program for Quest Diagnostics. “We hope this study highlights the need for Americans to get back to their doctors as soon as possible, so that cardiovascular health risks can be addressed, and patients can have the best outcomes possible.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around half of adults in the United States suffer from hypertension, which was a contributing cause to over half a million deaths in 2019.
“While weight gain was not the reason seen here for blood pressure increases, other possible reasons could be higher alcohol consumption, less physical activity, emotional stress and reduced medication adherence,” said Stanley Hazen, M.D., Ph.D., study author and chair of Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Sciences, and co-section head of Preventive Cardiology in the Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute at Cleveland Clinic.
Blood pressure readings of less than 120 over 80mm Hg are considered healthy and normal. Hypertension occurs when the blood pressure is steadily high, from a range of 130 over 80 or higher.
Cleveland Clinic encourages adults across the United States to stay on top of their blood pressure and seek treatment if needed.
“Continued monitoring of blood pressure trends are crucial as we emerge from this pandemic and begin to see the toll it has taken,” said Dr. Laffin. “High blood pressure can be treated through lifestyle modifications and medications, so find out your numbers and talk to your physician.”