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Hypertension link to social isolation during lockdown

Friday November 20th 2020

Social isolation due to COVID-19 lockdowns is associated with an increase in blood pressure, according to a new Argentine study.

Research being presented at the virtual 46th Argentine Congress of Cardiology (SAC) reviews a study conducted in the emergency department of Favaloro Foundation University Hospital, Buenos Aires.

The team analysed high blood pressure recorded in patients aged 21 and above during the three-month social isolation of 20 March 2020, when lockdown was introduced, to 25 June 2020. They then compared that to two previous time periods: the same three months in 2019 and the three months immediately before social isolation, 13 December 2019 to 19 March 2020.

The study included 12,241 patients, whose average age was 57 years and 45.6% of whom were women.

During the three-month isolation period, 1,643 patients were admitted to the emergency department – 56.9% less than during the same three months in 2019, which saw 3,810 patients attending and 53.9% lower than during the three months immediately before social isolation, when 3,563 patients were admitted.

During the social isolation period, 391 (23.8%) patients admitted to emergency had high blood pressure, compared with 17.5% during the same period in 2019 and 15.4% in the three months before the national lockdown was introduced.

Study author Dr Matías Fosco of Favaloro Foundation University Hospital said: “Admission to the emergency department during the mandatory social isolation period was linked with a 37% increase in the odds of having high blood pressure, even after taking into account age, gender, month, day and time of consultation, and whether or not the patient arrived by ambulance.

“After social isolation began, we observed that more patients coming to emergency had high blood pressure.”

He said there are several possible reasons for the connection between social isolation and high blood pressure, including increased stress because of the pandemic, limited personal contact and the onset or exacerbation of financial or family difficulties.

Higher intake of food and alcohol, sedentary lifestyles and weight gain, could also be to blame.

Dr Héctor Deschle, scientific programme chair of SAC 2020, said: “This study illustrates the collateral damage generated by isolation. There has been a significant decrease in heart disease consultations, which inevitably leads to avoidable complications.

“But I would like to emphasise the psychological damage pointed out by the authors, which we perceive daily in consultations and which is expressed as fear, hopelessness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. This affects interpersonal relationships and physical health.

“This study puts the spotlight on the concomitant consequences of the outbreak and the restrictions used to struggle against it.”

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Heart Health | South America

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