September 21, 2021 by John Fernandez
High Blood Pressure and Poor Health After Pandemic Lockdowns
With many public health officials continuing their pleas for Americans to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, they are also encouraging people with emergent or chronic conditions not to delay medical care. Primary care physicians and other specialists are seeing a slow, but steady, return of patients to their offices, amid enhanced safety precautions to protect against the virus.
A study presented at the 46th Argentine Congress of Cardiology last November showed that the number of patients admitted to the emergency department of a hospital in Buenos Aires during Argentina’s three-month lockdown from March to June 2020 was 57 percent less than the number of patients admitted during the same period in 2019. The number of patients was also 54 percent less than had come to the emergency department during the three months prior to the lockdown. Similar scenarios played out at Baptist Health and other hospitals across the United States.
Additionally, study researchers noted that 391 patients, or 24 percent of those admitted to the Buenos Aires’ hospital emergency department during the three-month lockdown had high blood pressure, or hypertension, no matter what their reason for seeking medical care was. The researchers showed this percentage was substantially higher than in the same period in 2019 when it was 18 percent. They also compared the lockdown percentage to the three months prior when it was 15 percent, noting the significant increase between these two periods.
The increase in high blood pressure during the lockdown likely resulted from people with hypertension and other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, being unable to access their prescriptions and their doctors for proper management. She adds that psychosocial factors likely contributed as well.
Complications of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure – anything over 130/80 mm Hg, according to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association – can lead to chronic kidney disease, heart disease, heart failure, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack, dementia and stroke. That’s why it’s important to manage chronic high blood pressure through lifestyle changes and medications.
Turning Point of COVID-19 Pandemic
Recently, a better understanding of the virus and how to prevent it, along with the rollout of vaccination programs, have calmed fears somewhat and paved the way back to a focus on the prevention and management of chronic diseases.
Doctors recommend that people who skipped their annual physicals in 2020 to schedule one soon. They encourage people who remain fearful of contracting COVID-19 to speak with their doctors about telemedicine appointments, which are available from Baptist Health Primary Care physician offices.