On the Rise: The Pandemic’s Effect on Blood Pressure

Published: Monday, April 11, 2022
Cardiologist at Georgia Heart Institute

It’s been over two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began. There’s no doubt that it’s had an effect on nearly every aspect of our lives—and it turns out, it’s also impacting our blood pressure.

Research released by the American Heart Association in December showed that the pandemic is associated with higher blood pressure among middle-aged Americans.

High blood pressure is already common among Americans, affecting nearly half of all adults. Factors related to the pandemic are adding to the problem. But why is that?

What the Research Shows

The study, published in the journal Circulation, found that blood pressure worsened in both men and women from the start of the pandemic. While both genders were affected, women’s blood pressure rose more sharply. Older adults also saw significant blood pressure increases.

There are likely multiple reasons why this occurred. The first is that people who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and were being treated for the condition didn’t necessarily have access to the care they needed during the earliest days of the pandemic. They may not have been able to see their medical providers, and sometimes they couldn’t get the prescriptions they needed to manage their blood pressure.

Adjusting to changes during the pandemic has been a struggle for many people and has tested coping mechanisms that directly affect individual’s health. This was especially true at the beginning, as people coped with drastic changes to everyday life, including a shift to working from home, helping kids with virtual learning, or dealing with job loss. That led to many people eating more junk food, drinking more alcohol, not being as physically active, and getting poorer quality sleep. Add stress into the mix—and you have the perfect recipe for high blood pressure.

6 Steps to Lower Blood Pressure

While further research is needed to determine whether blood pressure continues to trend higher, anecdotal evidence indicates that high blood pressure is still a factor.

As we continue to navigate the ongoing pandemic and new variants that emerge, it’s important to take the best possible care of your heart. That includes being proactive about maintaining normal blood pressure, which in turn reduces your risk of heart attack and other heart problems.

Start here:

  1. Move your body more.
    Experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, or about 20 minutes per day. But even if you’re not up to a formal exercise routine, even a small amount of physical activity can help lower your blood pressure.
  2. Quit smoking.
    If you picked the habit up during the pandemic or started smoking again, it’s a good time to stop. Your body will almost immediately begin to reap the benefits after you quit.
  3. Fuel your body with healthy foods.
    Fill most of your plate with fruits and vegetables, then supplement the plate with a serving of lean protein (like turkey or fish) and a whole grain. Round it out with a little bit of healthy fat.
  4. Find healthy ways to manage stress.
    Nearly all of us have been more stressed during the pandemic. But while stress is a reality, it’s important to find ways to manage its effects. Look to relaxing habits like meditation, reading, or a hobby.
  5. Prioritize quality sleep.
    You may have been getting more sleep during the opening days of the pandemic, but were you getting quality sleep? Build healthy sleep hygiene habits to get the sleep you need and your heart deserves.
  6. Take medications as prescribed.
    If you have high blood pressure and have been prescribed medication, take it consistently. Don’t discontinue your medication without talking with your medical provider.

Want to learn more about blood pressure and other heart health topics? Check out the resources in Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids of Georgia Heart Institute.

Georgia Heart Institute – Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids

As the leading heart and vascular program that’s focused on heart health for generations, Georgia Heart Institute has created an innovative center focused solely on patient education, healthy lifestyle behaviors, advanced screening services and support resources – spanning all types and levels of heart disease.

The Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids brings together expertise from non-invasive cardiology, culinary medicine, wellness coaching, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and more to deliver a holistic and comprehensive experience. This highly-trained team of preventative experts helps patients better understand their heart health, while also providing the expert guidance, advanced diagnostic testing and ongoing care needed to achieve and maintain long-term cardiac wellness.