COVID-19 Pandemic Caused a Rise in Blood Pressure

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Experts believe that blood pressure in women has increased since the COVID-19 epidemic, possibly because women have taken on more responsibility. mixetto/Getty Images
  • High blood pressure can increase the chance of stroke and heart disease.
  • Researchers found that blood pressure rose significantly in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women.
  • They point out that stress levels are higher, healthy eating habits are declining, and exercise is less common.
  • Experts say it’s important to make wise food choices as well as make time for physical activity while dealing with the extra stress and lifestyle restrictions brought on by the pandemic.

It is possible that your blood pressure rose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

New research shows that Americans have experienced higher blood pressure than normal in recent years since the pandemic. This is despite the fact that lifestyle changes and shutdowns have become a part of American life.

Particularly affected were women.

The studyPublished in the American Heart Association journal Circulation. The paper looked at data from 464,585 employees, and their spouses, from several companies that participated in Quest Diagnostics’ employer-sponsored wellness program.

Quest measured blood pressure in participants from all 50 US states and the District of Columbia over 3 years, 2018 to 2020.

Researchers from Quest, the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders of Cleveland Clinic, reported that blood pressure readings in April through December 2020 were significantly lower than those from 2019.

Average increases ranged between 1.1 and 2.5mm Hg for systolic and 0.14– 0.53mm Hg respectively for diastolic.

There were both increases in men and women of all ages, but the largest increase was for women.

“We did see more pronounced increases in blood pressure in women,” said Dr. Luke LaffinCo-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders, Cleveland Clinic told CNN.

“Now, we don’t know the exact reason for that. However, we do know and there’s data to suggest that the pandemic has tended to place more of an outsized burden on women, particularly women that work, and this is an employer-sponsored wellness program,” he said.

High blood pressure can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease, which are two of the leading causes for death in the United States.

Researchers believe that the observed increases could be significant.

Dr. Rigved Tadwalkar, a board certified cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Healthline that weight gain — typically a cause of high blood pressure — didn’t seem to factor into the study’s conclusions.

“The most likely culprit during the pandemic is emotional stress, stemming primarily from dramatic changes in routines, and worry from not knowing what the future may hold,” Tadwalkar said.

“The corresponding changes in dietary patterns, including an increase in alcohol use, are certainly contributory,” he added. “Physical activity has also fallen for many, which is a known indirect cause of hypertension.”

Tadwalkar told Healthline there’s evidence people aren’t taking prescribed medications during the pandemic, “which means that many people with a preexisting diagnosis of hypertension may not be on an optimal medication regimen, leading to greater elevations in blood pressure.”

Heather Hanks, a nutritionist/medical adviser who specializes in chronic disease management and autoimmunity. Medical Solutions in Barcelona, told Healthline it’s not just happening in the United States.

Hanks observed blood pressure rises in clients during the pandemic. She attributes this to stress and poor eating habits.

“Many of my clients are working from home, and they are trying to wear many hats,” Hanks said. “Moms are trying to work from home while helping kids with virtual school. They have few outlets for stress, limited social interactions, and access to food all day long.”

“I coach my female clients on healthy snacking habits, which includes eating three balanced meals per day,” Hanks said. “If you do need to snack, then make sure your snacks come from healthy sources, such as fruits and vegetables, healthy dips, air-popped popcorn, and raw nuts.”

Hanks said exercise is important for healthy blood pressure, something that hasn’t been easy during the pandemic.

“I also help my clients look at their schedule to fit exercise in. These changes can help bring down high blood pressure,” Hanks said. “For many women, this may require them to ask for help from their partners or flexibility from their employer.”

“Asking for help is hard for women, but because heart disease is among the top killer for women, it’s absolutely necessary to prioritize your health,” she added.

Source: Health Line

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