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Hypertension and covid-19: What you need to know to keep your elderly parents safe

Updated on:17 May 2020, 13:37pm IST
Over two-thirds of Indians above the age of 60 suffer from hypertension, which is also a high-risk factor when it comes to covid-19.
Dr Vishal Sehgal
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Keep your hypertensive parent’s blood pressure in check to keep them safe from covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Commonly referred to as the silent killer, hypertension or high-blood pressure is one of the most prominent causes of mortality worldwide and accounts for every eighth death globally.

But what makes hypertension a greater risk is the lack of timely diagnosis. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research, less than half of the actual hypertension patients in urban India are aware of their condition and the numbers are even lower for the rural population.

In fact, hypertension is on the rise in India and it is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular diseases as well as premature deaths in the country. It is observed that almost two-thirds of people above 60 years of age suffer from high blood pressure.

Hypertension patients are a high risk group, when it comes to covid-19
The emergence of the covid-19 pandemic has put hypertension patients at greater risk. People are more prone to the viral outbreak, which already has a mortality rate varying between 3% and 11% of the total in various regions.

The risk to blood pressure patients increases due to their weak immune system, reducing their ability to fight the coronavirus.

hypertension
High blood pressure aka hypertension weakens the body’s immune system, thus allowing covid-19 to wreak havoc. Shutterstock

There is also the likelihood of high risk, posed by high blood pressure medicines
According to research, ACE inhibitors and ARBs (medications for high blood pressure) cause an increase in an enzyme called ACE2 in the body. This is the same protein that the covid-19 virus attaches to.

Upon entering the body, the virus first causes inflammation of the airways. This causes irritation of the nerves and causes coughing. With worsening of the infection, the patient starts suffering lung damage and the capacity of the lungs to distribute fresh oxygen supply to the bloodstream reduces.

Also read: Researchers discover enzyme that makes men more vulnerable to covid-19

Eventually oxygen levels in the blood go down and the heart needs to beat harder and faster to ensure oxygen supply to various organs. Simultaneously, the body’s immune system starts attacking the virus which causes whole-body inflammation. Blood pressure starts dropping and that again puts stress on the heart to work harder and maintain oxygen supply to various organs like kidney, liver etc.

This leads to a severe impact on the heart in such cases. It is therefore imperative to pay greater attention to stabilizing blood pressure levels in people with hypertension. Some ways to do this are as follows.

Here’s how you can ensure your parents can keep their hypertension in check and stay safe from covid-19
A balanced diet is of utmost essence in keeping the body healthy. During pandemic times like this, it becomes even more important for your parents to consume foods that provide the body with plenty of vitamins and proteins to fight off the risk of covid-19. This keeps energy levels high and stress low. Also ensure they limit their intake of salt and processed foods.

hypertension and covid-19
Ensuring that your parents eat a balanced diet can help them cope with this pandemic better Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

Immunity is the most critical weapon in the fight against covid-19. Make citrus fruits a part of your daily diet and take vitamin C tablets in consultation with a specialist. It is also important to reduce your intake of salt and processed food.

Since most of the people are working from home during the ongoing lockdown, there is reduced physical activity which must be guarded against. Regular exercise at home, taking a walk on the terrace, yoga, and mindfulness exercises can be of great help in improving the body’s immunity.

Take adequate rest and spend some time on relaxation activities and hobbies to keep your mind fresh. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on the body’s immunity, hence it is important to ensure adequate hours of quality sleep.

Last but not the least:

Monitor their blood pressure levels regularly, and get in touch with a specialist in case of any concerns or symptoms.

Hypertension in itself is a major and constant challenge to our parent’s health and wellness. However, a pandemic like the covid-19 can further aggravate the situation.

Thankfully, nowadays it is possible to manage and monitor your parents’ blood pressure at home either with devices or through the help of home healthcare companies that offer such services. Being vigilant and managing the condition effectively with regular medication and living a healthy lifestyle is key.

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Dr Vishal Sehgal Dr Vishal Sehgal

Dr Vishal Sehgal is the medical director of Portea Medical, an in-home healthcare provider. He is also an expert in the field of trauma and emergency medical care.