Hypertension and COVID-19: 4 key things patients should know

Soon after COVID-19 started to spread throughout local communities in Wuhan, China, researchers noted hypertension patients may be at an increased risk of dying from the virus. Months later, experts from all over the world have confirmed this finding—but what else, exactly, do patients need to know about the relationship between hypertension and COVID-19?

The American Heart Association (AHA) has shared a new guidance on this very subject. These are four key takeaways from the group’s recommendations:

1. Keep taking prescribed CVD medications

The AHA, Heart Failure Society of America and American College of Cardiology already covered this with a joint statement dated March 17, but it is worth repeating: If you have been prescribed angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-i) or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) medications, you should continue taking them until told otherwise by a healthcare provider.

“These medications don’t increase your risk of contracting COVID-19,” according to the guidance. “They are vital to maintaining your blood pressure levels to reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and worsening heart disease.”

More information about ACE-i and ARB medications can be read here.

2. Avoid certain over-the-counter medications

“Common pain medicines called NSAIDs (e.g., naproxen and ibuprofen) can increase your blood pressure,” according to the guidance. “Decongestants are also known blood pressure-raisers. People with heart concerns should limit or avoid them, especially if their blood pressure is uncontrolled. Drugs such as acetaminophen are less likely to increase blood pressure.”

3. Make sure you have enough prescription medications on hand

Patients should work with their physicians and pharmacists to have enough prescription medications “to last for a prolonged period.” One option, the AHA noted, is to see if you can order a larger supply than normal. Medications are still to be “taken exactly as prescribed.”  

4. Don’t hesitate when immediate medical intervention is necessary

Hypertension is associated with an increased risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Even during these unusual times, patients must call for emergency help right away if they suspect they are suffering a heart attack or stroke. As the AHA observed, “emergencies don’t stop for COVID-19.”