Coronavirus and high blood pressure: what you can do
If you suffer from hypertension, you may be concerned about potential problems with coronavirus and high blood pressure. You’d be right to be concerned yet there’s no need to panic.
First we’re going to briefly discuss the risks of coronavirus with high blood pressure. Then we’re going to outline the many things you can do to improve your health and blood pressure and thus reduce your risk of coronavirus illness.
This article is meant to be positive and help you feel in control of your health so feel free to skip the next section on the risks and go straight to the practical help.
(By the way, we’re aware that ‘coronavirus’ is a term for a type of virus, however here we are using it to refer specifically to the disease COVID-19 caused by the current new coronavirus.)
Coronavirus and high blood pressure: what are the risks?
There is some evidence that having high blood pressure puts you slightly more at risk of getting coronavirus, of having worse symptoms, and of dying from it. Note the word “slightly” – !
This may not all be due to high blood pressure itself. There are a whole mixture of factors here which scientists haven’t had time to untangle yet, such as:
It’s clear that older people are more at risk from coronavirus in terms of developing serious symptoms and complications and dying. This is thought to be because our immune systems weaken with age. High blood pressure also increases with age. So it may be more your age than your high blood pressure that’s increasing your risk.
Blood pressure medications
Some blood pressure medications – ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers – may increase your chance of getting infected because of their effects in the body.
Please note though that doctors and scientists still advise continuing any blood pressure medications you are on since the risk is unconfirmed and in any case, letting your blood pressure get out of control could be worse for you. As always, talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
High blood pressure and coronavirus symptoms
Having said that, high blood pressure itself can cause specific problems if you get coronavirus. This is because, as well as damaging the lungs, coronavirus can also damage the heart (by causing inflammation of the heart muscle). Having high blood pressure means your heart is already having to pump extra hard to push blood through the arteries. So any further damage to it can be more serious.
If you also have heart disease and/or atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), then you are more at risk of severe symptoms.
NOTE: It’s important to remember that this coronavirus is a new virus so it is not yet understood fully and the science is developing all the time. If there are significant developments in the understanding of the relationship between COVID-19 and high blood pressure, then we’ll update this page.
UPDATE 6th June 2020:
There is growing evidence that COVID-19 is not only a respiratory disease but a vascular disease. This means it damages the blood vessels, and this may explain why 40% of deaths from COVID-19 involve cardiovascular complications. This also means that having high blood pressure puts you more at risk of getting more serious symptoms of COVID-19.
“Blood vessel damage could also explain why people with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and heart disease are at a higher risk for severe complications from a virus that’s supposed to just infect the lungs. All of those diseases cause endothelial cell dysfunction, and the additional damage and inflammation in the blood vessels caused by the infection could push them over the edge and cause serious problems.” – Dana G. Smith
Elemental.medium.com – Coronavirus may be a blood vessel disease
You can read more about coronavirus and high blood pressure here:
WebMD.com – Coronavirus and high blood pressure
Coronavirus and high blood pressure: what can I do?
This is the most important part! If you have high blood pressure, there are many, very ordinary, things you can do to start reducing it naturally.
This will be good for your health in general, as well as your blood pressure.
- being active and getting exercise
- having more of the foods and drinks which are good for blood pressure and having less (or none) of the foods and drinks which are bad for blood pressure
- staying calm and reducing your stress levels
These things are also good for your immune system.
What about supplements, you might be wondering? Is there something natural that you can take that will quickly lower your blood pressure and/or boost your immune system? There are a few and we’re going to discuss those further down the page.
* * * UPDATE 21st May 2020: The importance of Vitamin D * * *
There’s growing evidence that not having enough vitamin D can worsen symptoms of COVID-19 once you get it:
In many parts of the world such as northern Europe, Canada, the northern United States, it can be difficult to make enough vitamin D via sunlight on your skin. As such, scientists now recommend taking vitamin D supplements, especially if you have been spending a lot of time indoors, such as in lockdown! However, it’s important to note that suddenly taking mega doses is unlikely to help and might not be good for you in any case. The medical advice is just to start taking vitamin D supplements at normal doses.
For example, the US Food and Nutrition Board recommends a daily intake of 600 IU (15 mcg) for children and adults, going up to 800 IU (20mcg) once you’re over 70. However, many medical researchers believe these guidelines are too conservative, especially for those dealing with chronic health problems like high blood pressure. Many argue that you’re better to aim for at least 1,000 IU (25 mcg) of vitamin D daily. This is still well within the safe upper limit set by US and UK health authorities of 4,000 IU.
Taking vitamin D supplements is a good idea anyway as getting adequate vitamin D can help reduce blood pressure. It’s also extremely important for a healthy immune system.
We can recommend these vitamin D supplements by CLE Holistic Health. They are proven to be high quality. However, you can also of course buy good vitamin D supplements in your local health store (if it’s open).
You can read more about vitamin D and high blood pressure in our article here: Vitamin D, high blood pressure and sunshine
Also, here is the summary from the British Medical Journal listed above:
Vitamin D is essential for good health, especially bone and muscle health. Many people have low blood levels of vitamin D, especially in winter or if confined indoors, because summer sunshine is the main source of vitamin D for most people. Government vitamin D intake recommendations for the general population are 400IU (10μg) per day for the UK and 600IU (15μg) per day for the USA (800IU (20μg) per day for >70 years) and the EU. Taking a daily supplement and eating foods that provide vitamin D is particularly important for those self-isolating with limited exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D intakes greater than the upper limit of 4000IU (100μg) per day may be harmful and should be avoided unless under personal medical/clinical advice by a qualified health professional.
Lanham-New SA, Webb AR, Cashman KD, et al. Vitamin D and SARS-CoV-2 virus/COVID-19 disease. BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health 2020
OK, back to the rest of this article…
* * *
Exercise and being active
Spring is coming so it’s a good time to get out and about and be active more. Clearly, if you’re in an area where there’s a lockdown, then you may not be able to move freely. If this is the case, it’s even more important to make sure you’re still being active in whatever way you can. This could be going for a daily walk or jog in your immediate locality or even round your garden, or doing some fitness exercises or yoga as part of an online class. The point is to keep moving. It doesn’t have to be a special activity. You can even clean your house and dig your garden energetically.
Read more about exercise in our overview article here:
Lower blood pressure through exercise
See all our articles on exercise here:
Eating and drinking for healthy blood pressure
If this could be summed up in one sentence it would be: eat more natural home-cooked foods and less processed foods. Many natural foods are good for high blood pressure, especially vegetables and some fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes/pulses, oily fish, olive oil. Lots of drinks are helpful too, such as tea (black and green) and beet(root) juice and many herbal infusions. Eating and drinking healthily doesn’t have to involve self-denial. You can still eat red meat (just not processed meats) and dairy products and drink some alcohol. Even chocolate can be good for high blood pressure, as long as you go for the good quality dark stuff (at least 70% cocoa).
Most processed foods on the other hand are pretty bad for blood pressure – and general health. This is because they tend to contain a lot of artificially added sugars and other additives as well as being high in salt. This includes processed drinks like sodas and soft drinks. Getting a lot of these is linked to a variety of disease and dysfunctions including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
So, keep it simple. Avoid ready-made meals and fast food. Since in many countries, our restaurants and take-aways are shut anyway, it’s a good time to get into cooking from fresh natural ingredients at home. Your blood vessels and your taste buds will thank you for it in the long run.
Read more about how to eat healthily for high blood pressure in our overview article here:
High blood pressure diets
Much of this website is devoted to eating well to lower your blood pressure. If there’s a specific food or drink you’re interested in, then use the search bar in the top right of this page to search this website for it.
Staying calm and reducing stress
As well as being linked with high blood pressure, stress suppresses your immune system. So it’s a good time to be relaxing as much as you can.
Obviously this is a stressful time for many of us in so many ways. However, there are simple, straightforward things you can do to stay calm. There are things you can do at home, such as slow breathing (discussed more below), meditation, yoga. Online classes in things like meditation and yoga are proliferating right now. Simply walking can also be very grounding and therapeutic. And actually, laughing is one of the best ways of releasing stress. So dig out any good comedy films or have a look online. Ring up friends and family and try to share the laughter as well as the love.
Read more about stress reduction in our overview article here:
Stress and hypertension
See all our articles about stress reduction here:
One of the best things you can do to relax and lower your blood pressure is practice slow breathing. This lowers your blood pressure and your heart rate and your stress levels within minutes. This effect can be short-lived. However, if you do it regularly – for example, for fifteen minutes every day – it may lower your blood pressure and stress levels more generally.
Try it. Don’t worry about specific techniques or about breathing deeply. Just concentrate on breathing slowly.
Read more about this on our sister website here (his article includes links to guided slow breathing audio tracks which can be helpful):
Quickest way to lower blood pressure naturally
It’s worth noting that getting natural daylight and sunshine is really good for your mental and physical health.
Research shows that our skin not only produces vitamin D in response to sunlight (to UVB radiation) but also serotonin and endorphins. Vitamin D is excellent for your immune system and serotonin and endorphins help boost your mood and alleviate stress. Stress suppresses the immune system and you don’t want that right now. So get as much natural daylight and sunshine as you can to keep in good spirits and good health.
Obviously, this is something that can be difficult if you’re in a severe lockdown right now. However, even if you aren’t allowed out of your home and you live in a flat or apartment, open your windows, lean out if you can, and get some sunlight on your skin and into your eyes.
It’s particularly helpful to do this first thing in the morning as it will help stabilise your body clock. Research in this area is increasingly revealing how important keeping good 24-hour rhythms is for our health – including for our immune system and blood pressure.
You can read more about sunshine, vitamin D and high blood pressure in our article here, including guidance on sunbathing safely:
Vitamin D, high blood pressure and sunshine
There are several natural supplements you can take which can help lower your blood pressure. More details are in our overview post here:
Best herbal remedies for high blood pressure
One thing which is definitely worth considering taking right now is Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is vital not only for healthy teeth and bones but also for our immune systems. It’s also now known that vitamin D is important for healthy blood pressure too. So right now that seems like a good idea!
You can make vitamin D naturally from sunlight but in many northern and southern countries, you cannot get enough of the right kind of sunlight (UVB radiation) for much of the year. And, if you’re in lockdown and can’t get out much, then you also may be limited in how much you can make naturally (indeed, the Scottish government is now recommending everyone take vitamin D during lockdown due to getting less sunshine).
It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from food. You can read our vitamin D article for more advice on whether and how much vitamin D to take.
If you do take it, get a good quality supplement of vitamin D3. You can ask at your local health food store for advice. If you’re buying online, CLE Holistic Health do a good quality one (pictured). (They’re also the makers of the herbal remedy Alistrol, and have an offer on where you can get free vitamin D when you buy Alistrol).
What else? Well, that’s all the basics. If you want more detail on lowering your blood pressure naturally and/or if you’d like more structured guidance, then have a look at our book:
The guide goes through the many different foods and drinks you could be eating more or less of to improve your blood pressure. It looks at the different activities you could be doing to boost your circulatory health. And it outlines the various techniques and habits you can practice to lower your stress levels and generally live a more relaxed life.
PRICE REDUCTION: We’ve currently reduced the price of our book to $9.99 (about £8 or €9). This is for the pdf version. You can also buy Kindle eBook and paperback versions. Just click on the picture for details.
We wish you all the best health in these strange and difficult times. Take good care of yourself and your nearest and dearest!