Last updated: 24 August 2022
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 keep taking your normal blood pressure-lowering medicines as prescribed by your doctor or nurse practitioner.
Make an easily accessible list of the medicines that you are taking regularly. If you haven’t already made one, it is a good idea to do so now.
It is important, if you can, to:
- keep eating a good diet with plenty of fresh food
- limit alcohol intake
- reduce or stop smoking
- keep exercising regularly.
Follow 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. This is 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. This is because they are at increased risk of complication from seasonal flu.
Do blood pressure-lowering medicines make COVID-19 more severe?
No, the opposite is true. Having high blood pressure that is not well controlled is a risk factor. It raises the chance of severe illness if you do become infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
Studies have found that heart 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 as prescribed by your doctor during the coronavirus pandemic. This includes those used to manage your blood pressure.
Why have I seen news articles saying that some blood pressure-lowering medicines might be harmful if I am infected with SARS-CoV-2?
At the moment, researchers are trying to find out why some people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 are sicker than others and progress to more severe COVID-19 disease. They aim to learn why more people with heart disease, including high blood pressure, experience severe illness. To do this, researchers began to study whether there were any links between SARS-CoV-2 and their medicines.
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 chance of them becoming seriously ill if they do get sick with the virus. This was based on some early research into coronavirus. However, leading Australian and international experts in heart health have been looking at the scientific information available. They all agree with one thing: 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. They recommend that people with COVID-19 who take ACE inhibitors or ARBs should keep taking them, 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.
You may see or read something that raises questions about your condition or your prescribed medicines. Speak with a health professional, preferably your regular doctor, nurse or pharmacist. 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. This means the heart has to work harder to push blood around your body, leading to higher blood pressure. Medicines can inhibit or block this hormone. The blood vessels relax and blood pressure lowers.
These medicines are often prescribed to reduce the risks that come with high blood pressure, especially in patients:
- with coexisting heart disease
- with kidney disease
- with type 2 diabetes
- 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. Their benefits are well known. This 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
- European Medicines Agency. EMA advises continued use of medicines for hypertension, heart or kidney disease during COVID-19 pandemic. March 2020 (accessed 23 August 2022)
- Fang L, et al. Are patients with hypertension and diabetes mellitus at increased risk for COVID-19 infection? March 2020 (accessed 23 August 2022)
- Zaman S, et al. Cardiovascular disease and COVID-19: Australian/New Zealand consensus statement. April 2020 (accessed 23 August 2022)
- Ran J, et al. Blood pressure control and adverse outcomes of COVID-19 infection in patients with concomitant hypertension in Wuhan, China. August 2020 (accessed 23 August 2022).
- Sheppard J, et al. Association between blood pressure control and coronavirus disease 2019 outcomes in 45,418 symptomatic patients with hypertension. March 2021 (accessed 23 August 2022).
- Tadic M, et al. Hypertension and COVID-19: ongoing controversies. February 2021 (accessed 23 August 2022).
- Cohen JB, Hanff TC, William P, et al. Continuation versus discontinuation of renin-angiotensin system inhibitors in patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19: a prospective, randomised, open-label trial. Lancet Respir Med. 2021;9:275-284. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33422263/