Last updated: 20 July 2020
Keeping your blood pressure under control through medicines (if you’re taking any) and lifestyle measures is a top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to continue taking your regular blood pressure-lowering medicines as prescribed by your doctor or nurse practitioner.
If you haven’t already made an easily accessible list of the medicines that you are taking regularly, it is a good idea to do so now.
In addition, it is important to continue eating a good diet with plenty of fresh food, limiting alcohol intake, and reducing or stopping smoking if possible. People are also encouraged to keep exercising regularly, while following the Department of Health’s physical distancing guidelines, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic
Practicing good hygiene and physical distancing is crucial for people with high blood pressure, to avoid the risk of infection with COVID-19, as they are more likely to become seriously ill. It’s important for people with chronic heart disease to have a flu vaccine, as they are at increased risk of complication from seasonal influenza.
Do blood pressure-lowering medicines make COVID-19 more severe?
No, the opposite is true. Having uncontrolled, high blood pressure is a risk factor that increases the likelihood of serious illness if you do become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
Studies have found that cardiovascular disease is one of the most common underlying conditions in people with COVID-19 who had poor outcomes from the infection. This is why leading Australian and international heart-health experts recommend you take your medicines, including those used to manage your blood pressure, as prescribed by your doctor during the coronavirus pandemic.
Why have I seen news articles saying that some blood pressure-lowering medicines might be harmful if I am infected with SARS-CoV-2?
Currently, researchers are trying to find out why some people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 are sicker than others and progress to more serious COVID-19 disease. To understand why more people with cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, experience serious illness, researchers began to investigate whether there were any links between SARS-CoV-2 and their medicines.
Based on some early research into coronavirus, it was suggested that blood pressure-lowering medicines called angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) might make it easier for a person to be infected with COVID-19 or increase the likelihood of them becoming seriously ill if they do get sick with the virus. However, leading Australian and international experts in heart health have been looking at the scientific information available. They all agree that there is no direct clinical evidence to suggest that taking these medicines is harmful during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, available evidence shows that stopping your blood pressure-lowering medicines is more likely to lead to health problems.
The Australian National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce supports these conclusions and recommends people with COVID-19 who take ACE inhibitors or ARBs should continue to do so, unless there is another clinical reason not to. They note that 'Stopping these medications abruptly can lead to acute heart failure or unstable blood pressure'.
There is a lot of information in the media about the effects of different medicines on risk of infection or treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If anything you see or read raises questions about your condition or your prescribed medicines, speak with a health professional. Preferably your regular doctor, nurse or pharmacist, but if they are unavailable you can also get trusted, accurate information from NPS Medicines Line (1300 MEDICINE).
Do not change or stop your medicines unless a medical professional familiar with your situation advises you to.
What are ACE inhibitors and ARBs?
ACE inhibitors and ARBs are blood pressure-lowering medicines that lower blood pressure through their effects on a hormone called angiotensin-II. This hormone causes blood vessels to become narrow, so the heart has to work harder to push blood around your body, leading to higher blood pressure. When this hormone is inhibited or blocked by medicines, the blood vessels relax and blood pressure lowers.
These medicines are often prescribed to reduce the risks associated with high blood pressure, especially in patients with coexisting heart disease, kidney disease or type 2 diabetes, or who have had a stroke or are at a high risk of having a heart problem (including stroke).
ACE inhibitors and ARBs have been around for a long time and their benefits are well known, which is why they are recommended in the treatment of high blood pressure by Australian and international heart-health experts.
Research and commentary about blood pressure-lowering medicine and COVID-19