High blood pressure, a condition whereby the force of blood pushing against your artery walls is consistently too high, is a precursor to a number of life-threatening health conditions. It is well understood that a consistently high reading can raise your risk of heart disease but evidence also links the condition to a new threat. People with high blood pressure have been identified as an at-risk group amid the COVD-19 pandemic that is causing widespread fatalities around the world.
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Amid the panic, a swirl of stories on the internet have suggested that there is also a link between taking certain high blood pressure medications and an increased risk of the deadly pathogen.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has said there is no evidence to draw this link, however.
Firstly, the story is not based on original research, which is usually reviewed by several experts before it is published, the BHF points out.
Rather, it is based on a letter that talks about some previous coronavirus research and suggests a link between the way that some viruses get into cells, and the way certain blood pressure medications work.
The authors themselves point out that it is only a link so any additional claims are dubious.
The researchers have said that they are only making a hypothesis and they acknowledge that their proposed explanation is not yet confirmed.
Commenting on the claims, Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director BHF and honorary consultant cardiologist, said: “We’d strongly advise people to continue taking all their medications unless advised differently by their doctor.
“It’s understandable that newspaper headlines like this can make people feel uncertain about their blood pressure and heart failure medicines, especially at such an unsettling time.”
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She continued: “The medical profession has a number of expert groups who have reviewed the scientific information and they are agreed that there is a lack of evidence to support speculation that ACE inhibitors and Angiotensin Receptor Blockers increase the chances of severe Covid-19 infections.
“What is clear is that stopping your medication could be dangerous and could make your condition worse. These drugs are very effective for heart failure, and to control high blood pressure and so prevent a heart attack or stroke.
“It’s really important that you continue to take them as prescribed, unless advised differently by your doctor.”
The European Society for Cardiology’s Council on Hypertension also released a statement saying they “strongly recommend that physicians and patients should continue treatment with their usual anti-hypertensive therapy because there is no clinical or scientific evidence to suggest that treatment with ACE-inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers should be discontinued because of the Covid-19 infection”.
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Other links to high blood pressure
While claims that blood pressure medications may increase your risk are not supported by evidence, research has shown that high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing complications as a result of the virus.
Research published in The Lancet has suggested that people with existing health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, are most likely to die from coronavirus (Covid-19).
The study was carried out in two hospitals in Wuhan, China, which is where the outbreak started.
The research does have a number of important limitations to consider, however.
The study only involved 191 people, 137 of whom recovered and were able to leave hospital, and 54 who died.
Furthermore it is only based on people in Wuhan and the virus has since spread around the world.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, the study authors believe the study to be the largest of its kind of patients with COVD-19 who have experienced a definite outcome.
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