The first year of the pandemic was difficult. Americans have faced a global pandemic, the loss of loved ones, isolation that has fragmented social networks, stress, unemployment and depression.
It is probably not surprising that the blood pressure in the country jumped.
Scientists reported that blood pressure measurements in nearly 500,000 adults showed a significant increase in 2020 compared to the previous year.
This measurement describes the pressure of blood on the walls of the arteries. Over time, high blood pressure can damage the heart, brain, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes. Sexual function can also be affected.
“These are very important data that are not surprising, but shocking,” said Dr. Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, president of the American Heart Association, who was not involved in the study.
“Even small changes in the average blood pressure of the population,” he added, “can have a huge impact on the number of strokes. [acidente vascular cerebral]heart failure and stroke that we are likely to see in the coming months. “
The study, published late last year as a research letter in the journal Circulation, is a stark reminder that even in the midst of a pandemic that killed more than 785,000 Americans and generally hampered access to health care, chronic health conditions still need to be addressed.
Nearly half of all American adults have hypertension, a chronic condition known as the “silent killer” because it can be fatal, although it produces few symptoms.
Hypertension can also put people at higher risk of serious disease if they are infected with the coronavirus. (Evidence for this link varies, according to the U.S. Government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
A new study, conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Quest Diagnostics, examined data from hundreds of thousands of employees and family members in wellness programs that monitored blood pressure and other health indicators, such as weight.
Participants, from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, included people who had high blood pressure and others who had normal blood pressure at baseline.
“We noticed that people did not exercise as much during the pandemic, did not receive regular care, drank more and slept less,” said Dr. Luke Laffin, lead author, preventive cardiologist and co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic. “We wanted to know if their blood pressure changed during the pandemic.”
The researchers found that blood pressure readings changed slightly from 2019 to the first three months of 2020, but increased significantly from April to December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and consists of two numbers. The first number refers to systolic pressure, when the heart contracts, and the second number refers to diastolic pressure, when the heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mm Hg (so-called 12 to 8) or less, although there have been decades of controversy over optimal levels.
A new study showed that the average monthly change from April 2020 to December 2020, compared to the previous year, was 1.10 mm Hg to 2.50 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 0.14 to 0.53 for diastolic blood pressure. blood pressure.
The increases were real in men and women of all ages. A greater increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure was observed in women.
The average age of the research participants was slightly more than 45 years, and slightly more than half were women. But critics said the lack of information on participants’ race and ethnicity was a significant problem in the study, as hypertension is much more common among black Americans than among whites or Hispanics.
Blacks are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Lafin said that information on race and ethnicity was available to only 6% of study participants, so the analysis would not make sense.
But there is a big difference between black Americans and white and Hispanic Americans when it comes to hypertension, said Kim Williams, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and author of the National Blood Pressure Guidelines published in 2017.
“The hypertensive condition has been an epidemic in the African-American population for decades,” he said. “Our therapies have improved and our attempt to draw attention to it has improved, but the gap is widening. And we know that the pandemic has affected different cultures and different aspects of society in different ways.”
Translated by Luiz Roberto M. Gonçalves