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In the last few months, we all have been facing many challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Paying attention to healthy behaviors, including staying at least six feet apart from other people, washing hands frequently, wearing a facemask when going outside, and disinfecting surfaces, has proven very important to reduce the risk of getting the new coronavirus that cause the COVID-19. We should not forget, though, that it is very important for us to continue taking care of other health issues beyond COVID-19, including the medical treatment of chronic diseases that are so common in those 65 years and older. In this blog entry, I would like to talk to you about the importance of continued blood pressure control treatment if you have high blood pressure levels, a condition called hypertension.
Research studies to date have shown that controlling your blood pressure is one of the most important and effective ways to prevent negative health events such as stroke and heart attack. Controlling blood pressure may even be good to keep your brain sharp, including your ability to think, problem-solve, keep memories, etc.), as shown by a recent research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). For this reason, daily treatment of hypertension remains very important for healthier and active aging.
Over the last couple of months, I was asked quite often by several people with hypertension concerned about the use of a group of medications commonly prescribed and very effective for lowering high blood pressure to normal levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. This group includes anti-hypertension medications known as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE-i) or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). Those people told me that they had heard on the news and social media that those medications could increase the chance of getting infected by the new coronavirus that cause COVID-19. In this context, I would like to make some clarifications. That concern mentioned in the news was based on initial studies done in laboratories. Those studies speculated if the use of those medications (ACE-i or ARB) might make it easier for the new coronavirus to infect us or cause more severe disease. However, more recent research studies done in actual persons have consistently refuted that concern as not being true; that is to say, those using those medications (ACE-i or ARB) did not have an increased risk of getting hospitalized from COVID-19 or dying from it (hyperlink for free articles https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2767669 and https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)31030-8/fulltext).
In summary, findings from the latest research provide very strong support for recommendations issued by many major medical groups, including the American Heart Association. They support the continuous use of the medications (ACE-i or ARB), as recommended by your physician and health care team. Currently, there are studies being done to evaluate the efficacy of newly developed vaccines against COVID-19. We will report on those results when they become available in the next months. Meanwhile, keep up with healthy behaviors to reduce the risk of COVID-19, and continue with the medical treatment for any chronic disease you may have, including high blood pressure.
Dr. Paulo Chaves, MD, PHd
About the Author
Paulo H. M. Chaves is a geriatrician and clinical epidemiologist who holds the Leon Medical Centers Endowed Scholar Chair in Geriatrics at Florida International University (FIU). He directs the Benjamin Leon Center for Geriatric Research and Education at the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, which is committed to the development and implementation of novel approaches to advance active aging promotion, frailty prevention, and healthcare delivery to older adults in the outpatient clinical care and community settings through translational epidemiology research and Geriatrics and Gerontology education.