High blood pressure has been known to worsen the risk of serious symptoms, but the study, published Thursday in the European Heart Journal, shows just how bad the risk is.
The international team of researchers, led by Fei Li and Ling Tao of the department of cardiology at Xijing Hospital in Xian, China, studied the records of 2,866 patients treated in Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic was first noticed. Just under 30% of them had high blood pressure.
“Soon after we started to treat Covid-19 patients in early February in Wuhan, we noticed that nearly half of the patients who died had high blood pressure, which was a much higher percentage compared to those with only mild Covid-19 symptoms,” Tao said in a statement.
The team found that 4% of patients with high blood pressure died, compared to 1.1% of those with normal blood pressure. After some adjustments for differences among the patients, that worked out to a doubled risk of dying for the patients with high blood pressure. And 7.9% of patients who had stopped taking their blood pressure medications died.
The researchers then went to a pool of medical records from 2,300 more patients to see whether it mattered which blood pressure drugs they took. There have been worries about drugs known as ACE-2 inhibitors and ARBs, which use a mechanism similar to the pathway used by the coronavirus to get into cells. Some doctors feared those drugs could make it easier for the virus to infect cells.
But the team did not find evidence of that.
“We were quite surprised that these results did not support our initial hypothesis; in fact, the results were in the opposite direction, with a trend in favor of ACE inhibitors and ARBs,” Tao said. “Therefore, we suggest that patients should not discontinue or change their usual antihypertensive treatment unless instructed by a physician.”
“It is important that patients with high blood pressure realize that they are at increased risk of dying from Covid-19. They should take good care of themselves during this pandemic and they need more attention if they are infected with the coronavirus,” Li said.