Pandemic isolation may fuel high blood pressure, study warns

Pandemic isolation may be fueling an observed increase in blood pressure, at least according to a new study from Favaloro Foundation University Hospital in Argentina. The study was conducted after healthcare workers at the hospital noticed a spike in blood pressure during a multi-month period of mandatory social isolation.

In Argentina, a mandatory social isolation period was enacted in March that restricted people from leaving their homes with limited exemptions, including ones for buying food, essential workers, and similar. Following the start of this social isolation period, doctors began to notice that a greater number of people who came to the emergency room had high blood pressure.

Study author Dr. Matias Fosco explained:

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

The hospital conducted a study to get to the bottom of this observation using data on more than 12,000 patients. Of those patients, 1,643 were admitted to the ER, a huge drop compared to the same time period in 2019. Of those admitted patients, 391 had high blood pressure.

The researchers explain that the number of admitted patients with high blood pressure was 'significantly higher' than that of patients admitted during the same time period last year at 23.8-percent versus 17.5-percent. The experts note that a variety of factors may impact this change, including many psychological ones.

Social isolation has been linked to negative health effects in past studies; on top of that, the general worry associated with the pandemic, its financial ramifications, fear of contracting the disease and more may contribute to the uptick in blood pressure. Likewise, social isolation in one's home may result in lifestyle changes that increase one's risk of hypertension, such as excessive snacking and drinking.

Now that social isolation rules have loosened in the region, the researchers plan to study whether this change correlates with blood pressure in patients.