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COVID-19 and high blood pressure

A man looks at a pill bottle.

Do you have high blood pressure? Then you should know that you could be at increased risk for serious illness from COVID-19.

Some studies have found that COVID-19 patients with high blood pressure have a higher risk of:

  • Being admitted to intensive care.
  • Being placed on a ventilator.
  • Getting pneumonia.
  • Having organ and tissue damage.
  • Dying.

So it's important to take steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 and to manage your blood pressure well during the pandemic. Here are a few good ideas from the American Heart Association and other experts.

Keep being careful about COVID-19

Anyone with an underlying health condition should be especially careful to follow guidelines to protect themselves from COVID-19, such as:

  • Wearing a face mask when out in public.
  • Staying 6 feet away from others not living in your household.
  • Washing hands often.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.

Your doctor may recommend that you follow these guidelines even if you've been fully vaccinated.

Be smart about medicines

You should continue taking your blood pressure medicines exactly as directed. That's true even if you get COVID-19—unless your doctor says otherwise.

Be careful with over-the-counter medicines. Decongestants and some painkillers can raise blood pressure. That can occur with some prescription drugs too.

Watch what you eat

Probably the healthiest eating plan for high blood pressure is the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It's been proved effective in lowering blood pressure.

The DASH eating plan emphasizes healthy foods like:

  • Fruits.
  • Vegetables.
  • Whole grains.
  • Nuts and legumes.
  • Low- or nonfat dairy.
  • Fish and poultry.
  • Nontropical vegetable oils.

At the same time, it limits:

  • Red meat.
  • Sodium.
  • Sweets, including added sugars and sugary beverages.
  • Saturated and trans fats.

You should also try to limit caffeine and avoid herbal supplements, like licorice, that can increase blood pressure.

Manage pandemic stress

It's easy to stress out about social distancing and the dangers of COVID-19. A little stress is OK. But it becomes unhealthy when it interferes with sleep and worsens chronic health conditions. Stress can even sometimes lead to substance abuse, which can raise blood pressure, among other things.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these tips for coping with stress:

  • Take breaks from the news and social media.
  • Get regular exercise and plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to relax.
  • Turn to your social support network.

Monitor your blood pressure at home

If you can, get a blood pressure monitor to use at home. Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood pressure. Call 911 if it rises to 180/120 or higher and you experience symptoms of a hypertensive emergency.

Reviewed 5/23/2021

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