Despite boosters – high blood pressure apparently doubles the risk of a severe course of the omicron

In the omicron wave, high blood pressure more than doubled the risk of hospitalization—even for people who were boosted. Californian researchers evaluated the medical data of 912 patients who were infected with Sars-CoV-2 during the omicron wave between December 1, 2021 and April 20, 2022 – even though they were fully vaccinated and boosted.

82 percent of those infected in the hospital had high blood pressure

145 of them had to be treated in the hospital afterwards. The amazing thing: 82 percent of them suffered from high blood pressure. Many of these had no other risk factors. “The data show that it’s not just older people with underlying conditions who are at risk,” said study leader Joseph Ebinger of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Vaccination cannot prevent all severe cases

“We have to raise awareness that even three vaccinations cannot prevent everyone from developing severe Covid 19 disease – especially not in people with high blood pressure,” said the cardiologist.

Also at high risk for hospitalization after a breakthrough infection were patients with kidney disease or heart failure and those who had suffered a heart attack. However, since these diseases are often secondary damage to high blood pressure, the researchers looked at hypertension patients without such secondary diseases separately. But even for them, the probability of an inpatient stay was considerable.

High blood pressure increases risk 2.6 times

The risk of being hospitalized with Covid-19 also increased with age and the distance between the infection and the last vaccination. However, high blood pressure was associated with the greatest risk: it was increased 2.6-fold.

“Our data show that it’s not just older adults with other underlying conditions that are susceptible,” Ebinger said. “Breakthrough omicron infection severe enough to result in hospitalization can strike an adult of any age, especially if a person suffers from high blood pressure”.

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It doesn’t just hit the sickest of the sick

This also applies if they have no other serious chronic diseases. “The people who are most at risk are not necessarily the ones we think of first. It is not about the sickest of the sick.” That was a surprising finding.

People with high blood pressure who contract Covid-19 should therefore talk to their doctor about antiviral therapy, says Ebinger. And that could affect many: According to the Robert Koch Institute, around one in three Germans has high blood pressure.

In contrast, conditions such as obesity and diabetes, identified as major risk factors early in the pandemic, were less clearly associated with hospitalizations during the omicron wave.

Hypertension: The silent killer

More research is needed to understand the biological processes that can lead to more severe Covid-19 disease in people with hypertension. It is already known that Sars-CoV-2 can damage the blood vessels directly. This effect is possibly even greater in vessels that have already been damaged by hypertension.

High blood pressure is hardly noticeable for a long time, even at fairly high values. It is often only recognized when it has already caused damage to the cardiovascular system or to the nerve cells. That’s why he’s considered a silent killer.

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