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Do Blood Pressure Meds Cause a Greater COVID-19 Risk?

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What the latest science says

As we deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic, it seems as if theories and information about risks and treatments are spreading as fast as the virus. It can be hard to sort out the truth.

One of the theories getting recent media coverage ties high blood pressure medications — angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) — to an increased risk for COVID-19 infections and more severe symptoms.

If you or a loved one are taking either medication, you know how important it is to reduce the chance of heart attack, stroke or kidney disease. But worrying about an increased risk of COVID-19 may have you wondering if you should stop taking the medication. The short answer is no.

Here, I share the latest research and what you should do:

Do blood pressure medications put you at a higher risk for COVID-19?

Researchers cannot say for sure that blood pressure medications do make you more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. The theory gained traction with results from early animal studies of a different coronavirus (the SARS virus in the early 2000s). It appeared that the medications made it easier for the virus to infect cells in the lungs and cause pneumonia.

More confusing, other studies have suggested that ACE inhibitors and ARBs may actually reduce lung infection of viral pneumonia, including pneumonia caused by COVID-19. That means these high blood pressure medications could possibly be used to treat the virus.

We hope to learn more about the effects of these medications as further research is conducted.

Why should you continue taking blood pressure medication?

Researchers dug further into the available studies to find science-based information that would give doctors the evidence they need to address this question. What they found is that there is not enough conclusive evidence to support the claim that blood pressure medications put people at higher risk for COVID-19.

Medical associations from around the world — including the American College of Cardiology, Heart Failure Society of America, American Heart Association, and the European Society of Cardiology — agree. They issued guidelines urging patients to continue taking high blood pressure medication.

The bottom line is if you stop taking your medication, your blood pressure will likely rise, and heart problems may get worse. Based on the most current information researchers and the Centers for Disease Control have, serious heart conditions — including high blood pressure — do put you at higher risk for complications with COVID-19. There is no evidence to stop an important part of therapy to control your blood pressure elevation.

Stay in touch with your doctor and talk about your concerns

Keeping in touch with your doctor is always important to stay as healthy as possible. It's even more important now, with the uncertainty and stress of the current health pandemic. Your Temple doctor is your best source for answers to questions or concerns.

Here is a simple checklist to help manage your blood pressure at home >

Daniel Edmundowicz, MS, MD, FACP, FACC

Dr. Edmundowicz is the Medical Director of the Temple Heart and Vascular Institute and has a special interest in cardiovascular disease prevention. He is national authority on the applications of atherosclerosis imaging to cardiovascular disease prevention and risk factor modification. He has lectured widely and published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles. He leads public health and epidemiologic studies and participates in multi-center clinical trials. Dr. Edmundowicz is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and past president of the ACC’s Pennsylvania Chapter. He is also a member of the American Heart Association and National Lipid Association.

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