Hypertension And COVID-19: All You Need To Know

Since immunity is the body’s primary defence against all infections including this pandemic, we must take steps to boost immunity and reduce stress on the body.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented global health crisis. While in the last couple of decades, we saw the spread of contagions such as SARS and MERS. Diseases like malaria and dengue affect people in different parts of the world almost every year. However, this pandemic is far more chaotic. The second wave hit India earlier this year. There are certain pre-existing health conditions such as hypertension which can put people at a greater risk of COVID-19. Hypertension is a condition in which a person has higher blood pressure which can exacerbate the risk of other health complications.

A look at the data from China and Italy, two of the countries where community spread of the pandemic was first witnessed, reveals that the risk of infection and complications was higher among blood pressure patients. In Italy, 76 per cent of the dead had a history of high blood pressure. It is estimated that high blood pressure increases the possibility of COVID-19 fatality by about 6 per cent compared to normal people.

The risk to blood pressure patients is enhanced by their weak immune system. Aging coupled with a history of high blood pressure reduces the body’s ability to fight the Coronavirus. It is observed that almost two-thirds of people above 60 years of age suffer from high blood pressure. There is also the likelihood of the risk posed by high blood pressure medicines. According to some researchers, ACE inhibitors and ARBs (medications for high blood pressure) cause increase in an enzyme called ACE2 in the body. ACE2 is the same protein that the COVID-19 virus attaches itself with.

Upon entering the body, the virus first causes inflammation of the airways. This causes irritation of the nerves and causes cough. With worsening of the infection, the patient starts suffering lung damage and the capacity of the lungs to distribute fresh oxygen supply to the bloodstream reduces. Eventually oxygen levels in the blood go down and the heart needs to beat harder and faster to ensure oxygen supply to various organs. Simultaneously, the body’s immune system starts attacking the virus which causes whole-body inflammation. Blood pressure starts going down and that again puts stress on the heart to work harder and maintain oxygen supply to various organs like kidney, liver etc. This leads to a severe impact on the heart in such cases.

Although hypertension is a risk factor, it is possible to stay healthy by following certain precautions:

- Keep your weight under check by doing moderate exercise five times a week. Maintain a healthy BMI or waist to hip ratio.

- Eat a healthy balanced diet high in fruit vegetables low in sodium. Avoid processed foods especially those that contain a high amount of salt. This will also help in reducing your cholesterol.

- Stop smoking and avoid second hand exposure and also reduce the intake of alcohol.

- Make sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly at home. This will ensure that you can flag off any increase in the levels and consult a specialist immediately to avoid complications.

Since immunity is the body’s primary defence against all infections including this pandemic, we must take steps to boost immunity and reduce stress on the body. You must focus on proper nutrition and keeping yourself hydrated. Consume balanced meals containing the required nutrients to keep your body’s immunity strong and active. Personal hygiene is of utmost importance and even when you should avoid going out in public, you must always maintain personal hygiene and sanitation throughout the house. Avoiding stressful behaviour is also a key to improving body’s immunity. Do meditation or mindfulness activities and avoid paying a lot of attention to negative and disease related news. Communicate with family and friends and indulge in indoor activities which help you lift your mood. Remember that it is possible to stay safe even during the pandemic times by remaining alert and following the above-mentioned tips.

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