Does Blood Pressure Medication Raise My Risk for COVID-19? Probably Not

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
June 23, 2020
Blood Pressure and COVID-19

At the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, experts warned Americans with chronic conditions to take extra precaution to lowering their risk for COVID-19. One of the conditions highlighted in this warning was high blood pressure, a serious condition that can damage your heart, brain and kidneys.

This warning was based on a few studies conducted during the early phase of the pandemic that suggested high blood pressure raised the risk for contracting COVID-19 and developing serious complications. For example, in a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers tracked about 200 people with COVID-19. More than 80 of the COVID-19 patients developed a potentially lethal breathing condition called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) — nearly a third of these patients had hypertension.

Experts attributed the high blood pressure and COVID-19 connection to a weaker immune system, as living with a long-term chronic condition such as high blood pressure can take a toll on the immune system. They also speculated that medications used to treat high blood pressure may have raised COVID-19 risks. Patients with high blood pressure are often prescribed medications classified as either an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or angiotensin 2 receptor blocker (ARB). Both drugs increase the number of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, an enzyme on the surface of many cells that provided other coronaviruses an entry point to attach to cells and infect them. 

But new research now partially contradicts these early studies. High blood pressure medications did not raise the risk for contracting COVID-19 or its complications, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Another study, published in the European Heart Journal in June, found patients with hypertension who were not taking medications to control the condition were at greater risk of dying from COVID-19. 

Why the difference in the study results? 

“COVID-19 is a brand-new virus. Researchers are very quickly trying to understand the infection so they can advise the public on prevention and control measures and develop vaccines and treatment,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “These studies also didn’t look at controlled hypertension versus uncontrolled hypertension. New research suggests that people who have high blood pressure that isn’t being controlled are at much greater risk of complications from COVID-19.”  

Neither study is likely the final word on hypertension medications and this coronavirus, but researchers estimate that having high blood pressure puts you at twice risk for a bad outcome from a COVID-19 infection. That’s why it’s important to continue to practice social distancing efforts if you have hypertension and to work with a primary care doctor who can partner with you to manage your blood pressure. 

If you don’t have a primary care physician, consider joining an MDVIP-affiliated practice. MDVIP-affiliated physicians can work with you to develop a wellness program that focuses on preventing and controlling high blood pressure. Find a physician near you and begin your partnership in health » 

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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