KARACHI: People with uncontrolled and unmanaged blood pressure can develop serious complications including multi-organ failure, heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes if they contract COVID-19, experts warned and advised people with hypertension to regularly monitor their blood pressure at home in addition to controlling that with regular physical activities, diet control, and medicines.
In Pakistan, around 40 to 50 per cent of people above the age of 40 are hypertensive i.e., have high blood pressure, experts said. COVID-19 can prove to be disastrous for those who have uncontrolled blood pressure and diabetes as these diseases severely damage vital organs, including the heart, kidneys, and lungs, experts warned.
The latest scientific studies revealed that hypertension is the most prevalent comorbidity among patients infected with coronavirus globally, adding that a meta-analysis of seven studies with 1,576 COVID-19 patients around the globe has shown that 21.1 per cent of the COVID-19 patients were hypertensive.
“People with hypertension or high blood pressure are not at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as compared to healthy people, but they can develop serious complications after getting infected with the coronavirus if their blood pressure is uncontrolled or unmanaged. Hypertensive people need to regularly monitor their blood pressure at home and take measures to control it to avoid serious complications,” said Professor Khawar Kazmi, an eminent cardiologist associated with the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD).
Professor Kazmi, who is the head of preventive cardiology at NICVD, said that COVID-19 causes the inflammation of blood vessels among other organs of the body; therefore, people with hypertension have a higher risk of developing serious complications due to the infectious disease.
“We do not have any definite data, but generally, people with uncontrolled blood pressure and even unmanaged diabetes are at a higher risk of developing complications. These patients already have issues with their heart, lungs, and kidneys. If they contract COVID-19, they can develop serious complications,” he said.
“The first thing is to monitor your blood pressure at home in a state of calmness. Measuring blood pressure in an emotional state, after physical activity, or during a headache, is not advisable. Blood pressure should be monitored when a person is at ease,” he said, advising people to consult cardiologists for effective blood pressure management,” Professor Kazmi maintained.
Cutting salt intake, taking a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, regular exercise for 45 minutes daily in addition to a regular intake of medicines prescribed by a consultant can not only help control blood pressure but also keeps the immune system strong enough to prevent contracting COVID-19, he added.
“There is no need to take any extra supplement or medicines to boost your immunity. All you have to do is to eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise regularly at least for 45 minutes, take prescribed medicines regularly, and reduce your salt intake”, he added.
Dr Fawad Farooq, another eminent cardiologist at the NICVD, said people with high blood pressure are at a two to three times higher risk of developing complications including pulmonary oedema or fluid buildup in lungs, heart failure or heart attack, and stroke if they contract COVID-19. Around 25-30 per cent of the population is hypertensive, he noted.
“Various organs of people with high blood pressure get affected if their disease remains uncontrolled for a long period. In these circumstances, if a person contracts COVID-19, it can prove disastrous for them,” said Dr Fawad. He advised hypertensive patients to regularly monitor their blood pressure, reduce their weight through diet control and exercise, and take their medicine regularly.
“Blood pressure should be monitored in a relaxed state. Now digital blood pressure monitors are available in the market that can help in measuring BP at home. In case of high blood pressure, consult a doctor and take medicines, reduce your weight, eat a healthy and balanced diet, and exercise regularly to maintain blood pressure,” he added.
Another senior cardiologist, Dr Akram Sultan, while speaking about blood pressure monitoring and management at home, advised hypertensive patients to regularly monitor their blood pressure at home in a relaxed state, saying measuring blood pressure while crying, during headache, or any emotional state is not advisable.
“Blood pressure gets high if a person is an emotional state, which includes having anxiety or any kind of stress. Thus people should monitor their blood pressure when they are at ease and not under any mental or physical stress,” he added.