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COVID-19 and high blood pressure

What does coronavirus mean for people with high blood pressure? Our Hypertension Nurse Specialist, Nirmala, answers your questions 

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Does high blood pressure mean I’m ‘high risk’? 

High blood pressure by itself is not on the Government’s list of ‘high risk’ health conditions. The most recent evidence from hospitals around the world show that people with high blood pressure are not more likely to catch coronavirus or have a more severe reaction to it. As this is a new virus the evidence is still evolving and could change, so our advice is to follow the Government’s social distancing measures closely to be on the safe side. 

If you are over 70 or have a long-term medical condition such as heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure, diabetes (type 1 or 2), or you are heavily overweight (obese), coronavirus could be more serious if you do catch it, so do stick to the stay at home and social distancing measures.  

What should I do if I have coronavirus symptoms?

If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, tell your doctor or call NHS 111. Make sure you tell them that you are taking medication for high blood pressure – tell them the names and the dose, as this will help the doctors adjust the medicines if necessary.  

Should I keep taking my blood pressure medicines?

Yes. Keep taking your medicines as normal unless your doctor advises you otherwise. Stopping them can mean your blood pressure is no longer under control which could lead to serious conditions.

There have been some unfortunate headlines claiming that ACE inhibitors (which have names ending in ‘pril” e.g. ramipril, lisinopril, perindopril) or ARBs (ending in ‘sartan’ e.g. losartan, candesartan, valsartan) could mean you’re more likely to catch coronavirus or make it more serious, but current evidence suggests this is not the case.

Should I keep monitoring my blood pressure at home?

Yes. If you monitor your blood pressure already, continue to do so as normal, whether that’s once a week or once a month. There is no need to check your blood pressure more often unless your health professional has advised you to. 

Don’t worry about one-off high readings, these are normal. It’s only if you notice a consistent rise over several weeks that you should contact your GP or practice nurse.

Learn more about Home Monitoring

What do I need to know about measuring my blood pressure?

To take your readings, take a few minutes to relax first. Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor with your back supported and your arm resting on a table at heart height. Stay still and sit quietly because moving or talking can affect the reading. Record two to three readings 1-2 minutes apart. Ignore the first one as it can be higher, then average the others. Use this as your reading and write everything down as it appears on the screen to keep track. 

Measure your blood pressure at around the same time of day each time. Blood pressure varies throughout the day so if you measure it at different times, you won’t be comparing like with like. Your numbers will also be affected by things like when you take your tablets, eat, exercise, and if you feel stressed or worried. It’s good to have a routine – like measuring your blood pressure before breakfast. 

See our step-by-step guide on how to use a home monitor

What if I’m new to home monitoring?

Measuring your own blood pressure at home means you can keep an eye on your numbers without leaving the house. It gives you a sense of reassurance, confidence and empowerment. You can then call your doctor if there’s any notable changes which could need attention, and schedule an appointment at the surgery if needed.

You can buy a home monitor online or from some pharmacies for around £30 – there’s no need to spend a fortune. Choose a fully automatic (digital) one with an arm cuff as these are more reliable than wrist or finger cuffs. You’ll need a cuff size that fits your arm well, the pharmacist should be able to help with this. Make sure it’s validated – you’ll find a list of validated monitors from the British and Irish Hypertension Society at www.bihsoc.org.

Find out more about how to choose the right monitor for you

Most people find home monitoring very helpful but a small number find it makes them feel more anxious. If you would like to discuss whether it’s right for you, feel free to contact us on 020 7882 6218 or at help@bloodpressureuk.org

If you have atrial fibrillation, you may need to have your blood pressure measured in person by a nurse or pharmacist.

 

What should I do about other health problems?

If you have other health problems that you are concerned about that are not related to COVID-19, or you have signs or symptoms that are unusual for you, do contact your doctor or another NHS service by phone. It is OK to seek help for medical problems even while the NHS is busy.

Is it OK to call 999?

Yes. If you were to have a serious problem such as a heart attack or stroke, it is essential that you call 999 – even if you’re not sure whether it really is a heart attack or stroke. The NHS would much rather you call and it turns out to be a false alarm than for you to miss the treatment you need.

It may help to be aware of the signs:

The signs of a heart attack vary and are not always obvious, and you may have one or a combination. The signs include chest pain or a feeling of squeezing or pressure on your chest, which may radiate through your neck, jaw, arm, back or tummy. It may be mild or severe. Lesser known signs include feeling breathless, suddenly feeling deeply anxious or panicked, sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness, feeling or being sick, coughing or wheezing.

The most common signs of a stroke can be summarised with the ‘FAST’ acronym.

Face – the face may droop on one side, including the eyes and mouth, and you may not be able to smile

Arms – you may not be able to lift one or both arms

Speech – speech may be slurred or talking difficult

Time – time to call 999 – even if the symptoms disappear.

We hope you will have no need for this information, but it’s best to be aware.

What can I do to look after my health generally?

Pay attention to all the usual healthy living and healthy eating advice. Eat healthily, be active, look after your weight, avoid alcohol beyond the recommended limits and try to stop smoking if you smoke. 

What if I still have questions?

Feel free to contact our helpline on 020 7882 6218 or email help@bloodpressureuk.org We are happy to help.

 

See our news page about coronavirus.