● What should we do if we have high blood pressure after recovering from COVID-19?
● Does a family history of high blood pressure significantly affect individuals?
● How does COVID-19 affect blood pressure and the overall health of individuals with various medical conditions?
Do you feel that your health has deteriorated after recovering from COVID-19? If the answer is yes, and you are not alone. After the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world not only witnessed the severe health consequences of the virus but also its long-term effects on people's health. While the focus was initially on the virus's damage to the lungs, due to increasing evidence, experts have shown that COVID-19 leads to an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Therefore, to combat the long-term effects of the pandemic, it becomes necessary to unravel the complex relationship between COVID-19 and the increased risk of hypertension following the illness. In this article, we will focus on the underlying mechanisms and potential long-term consequences of the virus, as well as how to maintain good health and normal blood pressure levels.
People with high blood pressure before COVID-19
Hypertension is a condition characterized by consistently elevated blood pressure. Due to the large number of individuals suffering from high blood pressure, hypertensive disease had become one of the most significant health issues in the country even before the pandemic.
One of the primary global factors leading to a healthy individual developing hypertension is obesity. Bulgaria ranks third in obesity within the European Union, and there are several reasons for this:
- Alcohol abuse
- Irregular and insufficient sleep
- Chronic daily stress
Depending on how and why someone has started to suffer from hypertension, medications and an appropriate diet and exercise regimen are prescribed. When creating a dietary plan, foods that increase blood pressure (salty, spicy, fatty pork products) should be avoided. On the other hand, an exercise regimen encompasses all forms of physical activity, such as walking, running, and so on.
The impact of COVID-19
Due to its significant media coverage, it has become clear to all of us that COVID-19 has various health manifestations - from mild fever, headaches, and difficulty breathing to critical conditions resulting in fatal outcomes. Often, people who have recovered from COVID-19 develop various complaints and symptoms over time, which they did not have before contracting the virus:
Complaints that arise months after recovering from COVID-19 form what is known as the post-COVID syndrome. The most commonly encountered complaint among patients who have had COVID-19 is high blood pressure, even in individuals who did not have such complaints before.
Early recognition of the symptoms of hypertension is of particular importance, but it can be extremely difficult if a person does not seek advice from an expert. The symptoms are diverse and are often found in other conditions as well - headaches, ringing in the ears, palpitations, sharp chest pain, and others.
Hypertension is often discovered incidentally. In all cases of measured high blood pressure, there should be a period of observation and regular monitoring of blood pressure values, using the following methods:
- Mechanical or automatic blood pressure monitor
- EKG (electrocardiography)
- 24-hour Holter monitoring (routinely measures blood pressure and records it).
The results of objective examinations and blood pressure measurements over a specific period of time serve as the basis for the treating physician to determine the presence of high blood pressure. When diagnosing this condition, the treating physician should seek the underlying cause of its occurrence. Timely detection, prompt initiation of treatment, and regular monitoring by the treating physician can help prevent potential future complications, such as:
- Heart attack
- Chronic heart failure
Special attention should be given to patients who report a family history of hypertension, regardless of whether they themselves have had high blood pressure.
Family history is a complex phenomenon upon which COVID-19 can provoke the development of hypertension, or if it already exists, can lead to severe consequences that may disrupt cardiac function. In healthy individuals with a family history of hypertension, the likelihood of developing persistent high blood pressure as part of post-COVID syndrome is significantly higher.
Therefore, for people with a family history, preventive measures (diet and appropriate medications) should be initiated upon the diagnosis of COVID-19 to reduce the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.
Risk in Older Adults
Particular attention should be paid to individuals over 60 years of age. In this group, physiological age-related changes have occurred, which predispose them to the development of hypertension, heart failure, and other functional issues of the cardiovascular system.
Based on these changes and as a result of poor nutrition, an unhealthy lifestyle, or genetic predisposition, high cholesterol levels are measured. Additionally, as individuals age, the blood vessels of the circulatory system lose some of their elasticity and become more fragile. Due to the aging of the body, with all its age-related characteristics, COVID-19 progresses more severely, for a longer duration, with more complications, and a risk of fatal outcomes.
Therefore, these patients require close attention, continuous monitoring, treatment, and prevention of COVID-19 complications. A significant portion of older adults are hypertensive due to anatomical and physiological changes in the body, which significantly complicates the disease and its treatment.
Recovered with Prior Lung Conditions
Statistical studies on individuals with COVID-19 show a high rate of complications in patients who have had prior lung conditions. Given the established damage to the lungs caused by the virus, it is logical for individuals with pre-existing lung conditions to develop complications.
The virus can exacerbate lung damage, leading to a decrease in oxygen levels in the blood. In response, the body may constrict blood vessels in an attempt to improve the delivery of oxygen to vital organs.
Over time, this increased vascular resistance in the lungs can lead to pulmonary hypertension, which involves an elevation in blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries. This situation is further complicated in individuals with pre-existing lung conditions, making them more susceptible to developing hypertension after COVID-19.
Therefore, the patient's initial condition should be taken into account, and during the illness, blood pressure should be actively monitored and measured. Any signs of hypertension should be promptly managed to prevent the development of pulmonary hypertension.
Recovered with Atherosclerosis
In some individuals, improper diet or family history can lead to high cholesterol levels, resulting in the formation of atherosclerotic plaques. If a proper diet is not followed and normal cholesterol levels in the blood are not maintained, these plaques can narrow the lumens of blood vessels.
The narrowed lumen and the buildup of plaque slow down blood flow, predisposing the formation of clots. As blood pressure increases, these clots can move through the circulatory system, block cerebral or coronary vessels, and lead to a stroke or heart attack. For this reason, individuals with high cholesterol and a history of COVID-19 should take and follow the necessary preventive measures.
Recovered with Kidney Disease
After contracting COVID-19, some individuals may experience kidney complications due to the direct infiltration of the virus into kidney cells or the inflammatory response of the body to the infection. The kidneys play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure by controlling fluid balance and releasing hormones that influence blood vessel constriction.
Damage to the kidneys from COVID-19 can disrupt these regulatory functions, leading to fluid retention and hormonal imbalances that control blood pressure. As a result, individuals with kidney complications following COVID-19 may develop high blood pressure.
Socially disadvantaged individuals and COVID-19
Poor living conditions and a lack of regular physical activity can lead to compromised organ and system function, weakened immune defenses, increased susceptibility to infection, rapid illness progression, challenging recovery, and more frequent complications. (3)
Typically, the body is exhausted, experiencing imbalances in its fluid-electrolyte and acid-base equilibrium. This results in more frequent illnesses and a more severe course of COVID-19. The lack of financial resources often hinders access to medical care, timely treatment, and appropriate medications.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q1: Are people with high blood pressure more likely to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms?
All patients with chronic conditions, including those with high blood pressure, are more predisposed to complications from COVID-19.
Q2: Should people with high blood pressure take stricter measures to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19?
Firstly, these individuals should limit their social contacts, avoid crowded places, use personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and ensure proper ventilation in their living spaces. Of course, taking their blood pressure medications regularly and monitoring their blood pressure values periodically is essential.
Q3: What methods or devices can be used at home by people with high blood pressure?
It is advisable for individuals to periodically measure their blood pressure, especially when feeling unwell, using a suitable mechanical or automatic device such as those from SENDO.