Taking blood pressure

People with hypertension are 22% more likely to experience severe COVID-19 symptoms than their peers whose blood pressure is in the normal range, according to a new study of data from the U.K. Biobank.

Investigators examined data for more than 16,000 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Before the results were adjusted for confounding variables, individuals with hypertension were found to have over twice the relative risk of COVID-19 disease severity.

Treated BP 

In people receiving treatment for hypertension, systolic blood pressure of >150 mm Hg was associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19 when compared with a reference SBP level of 120 to 129 mm Hg. The same was true for SBP of <120 mm Hg, the researchers reported. 

The type of antihypertensive medication, whether angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin-II receptor blockers, did not appear to have an effect on risk for COVID-19 severity.


The majority of the effect of hypertension on the development of severe COVID-19 was shown to be direct. However, cardiovascular comorbidities may have been influential, including peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, coronary heart disease, arrhythmias and stroke. And there were other factors that likely played a part in the relative differences in disease severity, such as poorer health in individuals with a higher-than-target systolic blood pressure, the researchers reported.

Even though the mortality rate has fallen over time, “hypertension is an important risk factor for COVID-19,” the authors said. “A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms is warranted in case of more severe strains or other viruses in the future,” they concluded.

The study was published in PLOS One.

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