COVID-related social isolation associated with high blood pressure

Social isolation during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in more patients arriving at the emergency department (ED) with high blood pressure, according to new findings presented at the Argentine Congress of Cardiology 2020 virtual meeting.

“After social isolation began, we observed that more patients coming to emergency had high blood pressure,” study author Matías Fosco, MD, of Favaloro Foundation University Hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said in a prepared statement. “We conducted this study to confirm or reject this impression.”

Researchers tracked data from more than 12,000 patients who were treated at the ED of a single facility in Argentina, where a mandatory social isolation policy was put into place on March 20, 2020. During that time, individuals were told to stay at home unless leaving the house to buy food, medicine or other essential supplies. Schools were closed and public events were put on hold.

Overall, the strict isolation period—March 20 to June 25—was linked to a 37% increase in the odds of patients presenting to the ED with high blood pressure. The average patient age was 57 years old. The most common reasons patients were admitted to the ED were chest pain, shortness of breath, feelings of dizziness, abdominal pain, fever, cough and hypertension.

“Blood pressure control helps prevent heart attacks and strokes and serious illness from COVID-19, so it’s essential to maintain healthy lifestyle habits, even under social isolation and lockdown conditions,” Fosco added. “Many regulations related to the pandemic have now relaxed and we are investigating if this is reflected in the blood pressure of patients admitted to emergency.”

“This very interesting study simply highlights that we as cardiologists must keep a watchful eye on our cardiology patients beyond the pandemic,” Jose Luis Zamorano, the European Society of Cardiology’s regional ambassador for Argentina during the virtual meeting, said in the same statement. “If we do not treat and carefully follow our cardiac patients during the pandemic, we will see an increase of adverse outcomes in the future.”