High blood pressure: medication can lower your risk of COVID-19
People with high blood pressure are particularly vulnerable to severe infections with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Initially, antihypertensive drugs were also suspected to be the cause, but a recent study made it clear that medical high blood pressure treatment can instead significantly reduce the risk of serious illnesses from COVID-19.
An interdisciplinary research team from the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the German Cancer Research Center Heidelberg (DKFZ), the Leipzig University Clinic and other institutions also investigated the question of the extent to which blood pressure lowering agents in COVID-19 and high blood pressure Medicines can pose a risk. It was found that the drugs counteract the risk of severe COVID-19 courses instead of increasing it.
The -study results were published in the journal “ Nature Biotechnology”.
Pre-activation of immune cells
Already relatively early in the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, high blood pressure was associated with an increased risk of severe COVID-19 courses. In the current study, the German research team was able to identify a possible cause for this. For the study, the researchers evaluated the clinical data of 144 patients and also carried out so-called “single cell sequencing” analyzes of cells from nasopharyngeal swabs in 48 participants with and without COVID-19.
The -research team found that participants with high blood pressure generally have a slight pre-activation of special immune cells, which can have fatal consequences if they contract COVID-19. “ If the immune system is already permanently activated, in the case of an acute inflammation this can mean that the body can no longer react normally,” explains Dr. Maria Theresa Völker from Leipzig University Hospital.
“However, this very slight inflammation cannot be seen in a normal blood test, but can only be made visible when individual cells are precisely analyzed,” the study author continues. According to the researchers, the increased inflammatory reaction was also associated with a longer period of time until the virus was free and the participants with high blood pressure were more susceptible to more severe respiratory infections.
High blood pressure is an independent risk factor
So far, it has been controversial whether high blood pressure should be assessed as an independent risk factor or whether it should be seen in connection with other factors, such as age. Because old age and high blood pressure can be found together in many of those affected. “ In Germany, almost every third adult has high blood pressure values, and among those over 60, on average, every second person is affected by high blood pressure”, reports the German Hypertension League.
The -recently published study shows, however, that untreated high blood pressure can be an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19 courses.
Blood pressure medication lower the risk
The -study confirms the hypothesis that arterial hypertension “can aggravate COVID-19 disease” and “also showed that drug therapy for blood pressure had a positive effect,” said Professor Dr. Ulrich Wenzel from UKE Hamburg, CEO of the German Hypertension League. When comparing the participants who took medication for their high blood pressure and those who did not take any medication, a clear difference was evident.
The -results were amazing,” emphasizes Dr. People. “By taking ACE inhibitors or so-called AT1 blockers, the risk of a severe course of the disease could be significantly reduced.” However, the extent of the reduction was different. While only a slight reduction in the risk of severe COVID-19 courses was observed with AT1 antagonists, the risk was almost completely eliminated by taking ACE inhibitors, the researchers report. However, direct therapy recommendations have not yet been derived from this.
No direct therapy recommendations can be derived
The -German Hypertension League also emphasizes that the number of study participants was too small and that the study was not even designed to be able to compare various antihypertensive therapies with regard to their “anti-COVID-19 potential”.
The -main finding is that high blood pressure is an independent risk factor for severe COVID-19 courses if it is not treated.
The -increased inflammatory reaction found could be the explanation for this.
“ We hope that this central message motivates patients to consistently take their blood pressure medication,” emphasizes Professor Dr. Ulrich Wenzel. But “unfortunately, many people ignore their high blood pressure values,” adds Professor Dr. Florian Limbourg from the Hannover Medical School (MHH), also member of the board of the German Hypertension League. In addition, some have no idea that their blood pressure is too high, Limbourg continues. It is all the more important to sensitize the population to high blood pressure and the health consequences. (fp)
Author and source information
This text complies with the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
- Saskia Trump, Soeren Lukassen, Irina Lehmann, Ulf Landmesser, et al.: Hypertension delays viral clearance and exacerbates airway hyperinflammation in patients with COVID-19; in: Nature Biotechnology (veröffentlicht 24.12.2020), nature.com
- Berlin Institute of Health (BIH): Immune overreaction explains severe COVID-19 course in patients with high blood pressure – Can ACE inhibitors help? (published December 24, 2020), idw-online.de
- German Hypertension League: Untreated high blood pressure increases the risk of severe COVID-19 courses (published: December 31, 2020), idw-online.de
- #Universitätsklinikum Leipzig: Can ACE inhibitors reduce the risk of severe COVID-19 disease in patients with high blood pressure? (published December 30, 2020), uniklinikum-leipzig.de