American adults dealing with stress, lifestyle changes
It isn’t altogether surprising, but is revelatory of the health impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had even on people who have managed not to catch the disease: American adults have had elevated blood pressures since the pandemic started. That’s according to a study of nearly half a million people by Quest Diagnostics published in the journal “Circulation” on Monday.
The subjects were employees or their spouses enrolled in employer-sponsored wellness programs. Compared to 2019 figures, they had significantly higher blood pressures in the period from April-December 2020. Systolic blood pressure went up from 1.1 millimeters of mercury on average to 2.5, while diastolic readings went from 0.14 to 0.53. Participants hailed from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., and were in the programs in 2018, ’19, and ’20.
“We did see more pronounced increases in blood pressure in women. Now, we don’t know the exact reason for that. However, we do know and there’s data to suggest that the pandemic has tended to place more of an outsized burden on women, particularly women that work, and this is an employer-sponsored wellness program,” Dr. Luke Laffin, co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at Cleveland Clinic, said.
Laffin noted that many factors going into determining our blood pressures and said that stress and lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic could be playing a big role in the increase.
“A lot of the factors that we saw — people going to the gym less, being more stressed, getting worse sleep, eating more poorly — those can all have a pretty significant impact on blood pressure,” he told Today.
Drinking more alcohol might have played a role, too.
High blood pressure can increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes, two of the biggest killers of American adults. So, while protection against COVID is important, taking care of yourself in more conventional ways is vital, too.