High blood pressure means your blood pressure is consistently too high and that your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. While this may seem harmless on the surface, it causes the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart to lose their stretchiness and narrow. A heart attack happens when the heart becomes starved of blood and oxygen so keeping your blood pressure in check could be the difference between life and death.
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Fortunately, high blood pressure can be reversed by making simple lifestyle changes, such as improving your diet and engaging in regular exercise.
However, depending on the nature and severity of your condition, you may need medication to bring your blood pressure under control.
According to the NHS, many people need to take a combination of different medicines.
But as a general rule:
- If you’re under 55 years of age – you’ll usually be offered an ACE inhibitor or an angiotensin-2 receptor blocker (ARB)
- If you’re aged 55 or older, or you’re any age and of African or Caribbean origin – you’ll usually be offered a calcium channel blocker
This treatment practice has long been validated by the scientific and medical community.
Now this orthodoxy has come under scrutiny in light of the coronavirus outbreak that is sweeping across the globe.
There have been suggestions floated on social media and picked by certain newspapers that high blood pressure may be associated with increased risk of death in patients with severe cases of coronavirus.
Speaking to the Northern Echo, GP Professor Ahmet Fuat, chairman of Darlington Primary Care Network, expands on these claims: “On non-medical social media sites and some newspapers it has been suggested that commonly used drugs ACEi (ending in “pril” eg ramipril, lisinopril, perindopril) and ARBs (ending in “sartan” eg losartan, candesartan, valsartan) may increase both the risk of infection and the severity of SARS-CoV2 (the virus causing this infection), and has led to many patients stopping their medication.
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“This could lead to destabilisation of their blood pressure control, heart failure or any other condition they take these drugs for.”
Professor Fuat continues: “This speculation about the safety of ACE-i or ARB treatment in relation to coronavirus does not have a sound scientific basis or evidence to support it.
“Indeed, there is evidence from studies in animals suggesting that these medications might be rather protective against serious lung complications in patients with coronavirus infection, but to date there is no data in humans.”
Pof Fuat goes on too urge all patients to continue taking their prescribed blood pressure medications.
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This view is in line with the British Heart Foundation, which strongly advises people to continue taking all their medications unless advised differently by their doctor.
According to the BHF, the medical profession has a number of expert groups who have reviewed the scientific information and they are agreed that there is a lack of evidence to support speculation that ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) increase the chances of severe COVID-19 infections.
The health body also echoes Prof Fuat’s warning: “What is clear is that stopping your medication could be dangerous and could make your condition worse.
“These drugs are very effective for heart failure, and to control high blood pressure to help prevent a heart attack or stroke.”
What is the coronavirus?
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.
As the World Health Organisation (WHO) explains, most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.
Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.
How can I minimise the risk of catching it?
“Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face,” advises the WHO.
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