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High blood pressure can double risk of Covid-19 death, study says

The new research was published today in the European Heart Journal.

PEOPLE WHO HAVE high blood pressure may be twice as likely to die from Covid-19 than those without the medical condition, according to a new study which included research from a team of experts at NUI Galway.

Scientists have said the risk is even greater among patients who are not taking medication to control hypertension.

The findings, reported in the European Heart Journal, are based on data from nearly 3,000 hospital patients in Wuhan, China.

However, the researchers said this result “should be interpreted cautiously”, adding that “patients should not discontinue or change their normal, antihypertensive treatment”.

Professor Fei Li, from Xijing Hospital in China and one of the study authors, said: “It is important that patients with high blood pressure realise that they are at increased risk of dying from Covid-19.

“They should take good care of themselves during this pandemic and they need more attention if they are infected with the coronavirus.”

A team of scientists, which also included researchers from the National University of Ireland Galway, looked at data from 2,866 patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 between February 5-15.

Of these patients, 850 (29.5%) had a medical history of hypertension.

The team found 34 out of 850 patients (4%) with hypertension died after becoming infected with coronavirus, compared with 22 out of 2,027 patients without the condition (1.1%).

After adjustment for factors such as age, sex and other medical conditions, the researchers said those with high blood pressure had more than a two-fold increased risk of dying from Covid-19.

Among the patients who were not taking medication for hypertension, 11 out 140 (7.9%) died from coronavirus, compared with 23 out of 710 (3.2%) of those consuming the medicines.

The researchers then pooled data from three other studies involving nearly 2,300 patients to investigate the role played by RAAS inhibitors, a class of drugs commonly used to treat blood pressure, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs, in Covid-19 death risk.

They found the risk of death to be lower among the patients who took RAAS inhibitors compared with those treated with other drugs such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) or diuretics.

Professor Li said: “In contrast to our initial hypothesis, we found that RAAS inhibitors, such as ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, were not linked to an increased risk of dying from Covid-19 and, in fact, may be protective.

“Therefore, we suggest that patients should not discontinue or change their usual antihypertensive treatment unless instructed by a physician.”

A randomised clinical trial testing the effects of blood pressure medication on Covid-19 patients is set to run at the NUI Galway as part of the next steps in the research.

Newly appointed researchers will be working on the study at NUIG, including study co-author Professor Patrick W Serruys.

He said: “There are three remaining questions, and we hope our clinical trial in Ireland will answer the first two: what kind of medication should be given to Covid-19 patients with hypertension – RAAS inhibitors or non-RAAS inhibitors – and could these medications mitigate the risk of dying in these patients?

“The last question is whether or not RAAS inhibitors influence the risk of infection for Covid-19.”

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