LifestyleHealth and Fitness


'It's a silent killer' — Doctors warn of rising cases of high blood pressure amidst pandemic

blood pressure
Posted at 8:08 AM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 18:34:32-05

CLEVELAND — A new Cleveland Clinic study shows a concerning link between the pandemic and a rise in blood pressure cases across the country.

Doctors believe many people may be at risk for cardiovascular problems and not even know it, especially those who have put off going to the doctor during the pandemic since high blood pressure is not often detected until the worst happens.

A press release states:

“Researchers with Cleveland Clinic and Quest Diagnostics analyzed information from 464,585 people, all of whom participated in an annual employer-sponsored wellness program; operated by Quest Diagnostics. The data, based on tests performed by Quest Diagnostics showed a significant increase in blood pressure from April through December of 2020 – when many U.S. states put stay-at-home orders in place – compared to the same time period in 2019.

"During that period of time, 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. Increases were seen across all age groups in both men and women- though, a larger increase was seen in women."

Dr. Luke Laffin, Co-Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Blood Pressure Disorders, says the spike is likely due to alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, emotional stress and poor sleep.

“Lifestyle components are very important and these have been greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Laffin explained. “Make sure you see your doctor regularly, take your medications as prescribed and don't lose track of those chronic medical conditions that can creep up during a pandemic because those are really important.”

Blood Pressure scare hits home for local father

Coty Backman was in his mid-20s when he first learned he had high blood pressure.

“Before I left college, I had some issues, so it’s been a while,” he said. “They call this a silent killer. You know, this can creep up on you.”

He says that “silent killer” runs in his family.

“My mother has high blood pressure,” Backman said. “My wife's father actually passed from that.”

The genetic concern was confirmed when a concussion sent him to an infirmary early on. Backman, now 49 years old, started taking meds. Though within the last year, he says he started feeling sluggish and his blood pressure readings are still above average. So, he went to the Cleveland Clinic to help manage it.

“I didn't want to be, you know, one of those statistics, especially where you can do something about it,” Backman said. “I have a 11-year-old daughter and, you know, she needs her dad.”

Managing high blood pressure

The 2021 blood pressure numbers are not out yet. However, Dr. Laffin expects those numbers to stay high or continue rising over the next few years because of COVID lifestyle changes.

Dr. Laffin recommends scheduling an appointment with a doctor to find out your numbers. He says some blood pressure cases require different treatments and medications, while certain lifestyle and diet changes work for many. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, visit your local pharmacies, a health clinic and even some gyms as many of them will do it for free.