Blood pressure readings spiked during stay-at-home orders, study finds 

Significant increases in blood pressure readings were observed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in both men and women across the U.S., a study published Dec. 6 in Circulation found. 

Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and Quest Diagnostics analyzed data from 464,585 participants from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., all of whom participated in an annual employer-sponsored wellness program operated by Quest Diagnostics. 

Annual blood pressure changes for 2019 versus 2018, January to March 2020 versus the same time period in 2019 and April to December 2020 versus the same time period in 2019 were estimated for comparisons between pre-pandemic and pandemic periods.

"The rise in blood pressure revealed by our Health Trends data raises concerns that many Americans are at risk for cardiovascular events. Since elevated blood pressure is often undetectable until the worst outcomes occur, individuals who delayed preventive care during the pandemic may be at risk and not even know it," Harvey W. Kaufman, MD, senior medical director and head of the Health Trends research program for Quest Diagnostics, said in a news release

"We hope this study highlights the need for Americans to get back to their doctors as soon as possible, so that cardiovascular health risks can be addressed, and patients can have the best outcomes possible."

Key findings: 

  • During the pandemic period, mean increases each month, compared to the previous year, ranged from 1.10 to 2.50 mm Hg for systolic blood pressure and 0.14 to 0.53 mm Hg for diastolic blood pressure. 

  • Larger increases were seen in women for both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

  • Larger increases were seen in older participants for systolic blood pressure, and in younger participants for diastolic blood pressure. 

  • The average reduction in weight in men seen in the pandemic period, and the increase in weight of women being the same as the pre-pandemic period, led researchers to conclude weight gain was not an apparent cause for the rise in blood pressure. 

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