Americans Blood Pressure on the RISE Since COVID 

By  Dr. Mike Hansen

More Americans are experiencing hypertension, meaning higher blood pressure, due to the covid pandemic. This is based on a pretty impressive study published in the journal Circulation.
Why would a pandemic cause people’s blood pressure to run higher?
By the end of this video, you’ll have a good understanding of WHY.
But if I had to pick one word as the reason, that would be.

Stress Or anxiety.
And this isn’t just an assumption or a theory. Take a look at some of the most searched health topics of 2021, like “why do I feel anxious for no reason” It’s also no wonder why the US surgeon general just warned about the devastating mental health effects that young people are facing, which the covid pandemic has amplified. The 53-page report shows the significant increases in self-reports of depression, anxiety, and mental-health-related ER visits.

Blood Pressure on the RISE Since COVID

One significant stat is that ER visits for suicide attempts rose 51% for adolescent girls in early 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, while “the figure rose 4% for boys.

So yeah, stress, anxiety, and depression for several reasons. Loss of loved ones. So far, COVID has taken over 785,000 American lives. Stress from lockdowns that cut social events and strained relationships, Politics, Unemployment.

What happens when people are stressed?
More and more stress hormones, especially cortisol, are released from your adrenal glands, and those higher levels circulating in your blood affect the entire body. Too much cortisol raises blood sugar levels, weakens the immune system, and raises blood pressure.

Not only that, but the covid pandemic meant that
1) people weren’t exercising as much
2) people were eating less healthy
3) drinking more alcohol
4) getting less quality sleep
5) weren’t getting as much regular health care, including fewer doctor visits and less adherence to medication regimen

In fact, these very observations led the lead author to conduct this study in the first place. Based on this new study, Almost a half million Americans have a higher blood pressure than the year before. To be more specific, the researchers at Cleveland Clinic found that the blood pressure reading, for the most part, stayed the same from 2019 thru March of 2020 but had a big jump from April 2020 to the end of the study in December 2020.

It’s really two measurements rolled into one when looking at blood pressure; it’s really 2 measurements rolled into one. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, related to the heart squeezing. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure, related to heart relaxation. Anyone with a reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher is considered to have high blood pressure.

The average monthly change from April 2020 to December 2020, compared to 1 year prior to that, was a 1.10 to 2.50 mm Hg increase in systolic pressure. It was an average increase of 0.14 to 0.53 mm Hg for diastolic pressure. These numbers may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually a significant jump when you have this jump in half a million people. The increases occurred in all of the subgroups. It happened in all ages, in both men and women, although a bigger increase in women. Over time, having high blood pressure, even if it’s just a little high, can damage blood vessels, your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes, as well as sexual function.

Almost half of all American adults have high blood pressure, which is often called a “silent killer” because it can have life-threatening consequences, despite it causing little to no symptoms. With more and more people having higher blood pressure, more and more people will have strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney impairment, visual impairment, and erectile dysfunction. So you’re going to have more hospital admissions for these conditions, but guess what disease is still filling up some hospitals to the brink, COVID.

Fortunately, high blood pressure is relatively easy to diagnose and treat. In many cases, blood pressure can be adequately lowered without medication simply by eating healthier, exercising more, and practicing stress reduction techniques. This would include things like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness. One of the main dietary changes you can make to lower blood pressure would entail eating more potassium and less salt. Take a look at this study published in the NEJM, which had about 400 people. Half of them followed a typical American diet, and the other half followed the DASH diet for three months.

The conclusion?
Those who eat a low-sodium DASH diet can prevent or even reverse the typical rise in blood pressure that occurs as people get older.

Doctor Mike Hansen, MD
Internal Medicine | Pulmonary Disease | Critical Care Medicine

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