A recent study conducted by Italian researchers has revealed a significant link between SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes COVID-19, and the development of new-onset hypertension. This finding has raised concerns about the long-term cardiovascular consequences and other health issues associated with hypertension, such as glaucoma and kidney damage.
The study, conducted by the University of Insubria-Italy, Istituti Clinici Scientifici Maugeri, IRCCS-Italy, and Hospital S. Maria della Misericordia-Italy, aimed to understand the specific effect of SARS-CoV-2 on blood pressure during and after the acute phase of the infection. The researchers analyzed data from four separate studies and found a 65% increased risk of new-onset hypertension among COVID-19 patients compared to the control group.
This discovery highlights the need for further research and monitoring, as it suggests a strong connection between SARS-CoV-2 infection and hypertension. It also positions new-onset hypertension as a prevalent cardiovascular consequence of COVID-19.
The implications of this finding are significant. Firstly, elevated blood pressure during the acute phase of COVID-19 and uncontrolled in-hospital blood pressure have been identified as significant predictors of organ damage and worse prognosis for COVID-19 patients. Hypertension is associated with an increased risk of admission to intensive care units, worsening heart failure, and higher mortality rates in hospitalized individuals.
Secondly, new-onset hypertension is suspected to be a potential risk factor for long COVID, a condition characterized by persistent symptoms and complications that affect individuals long after their initial recovery from SARS-CoV-2 infection. This raises concerns about the occurrence of cardiovascular events in COVID-19 survivors and emphasizes the need for long-term monitoring and care.
The exact mechanisms linking COVID-19 with new-onset hypertension are not fully understood. However, research suggests that the interaction between SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins and ACE2 receptors plays a significant role in raising blood pressure. During the acute phase of infection, the disruption of the protective axis of the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system (RAAS) leads to increased blood pressure and the development of hypertension. A similar mechanism may persist in the post-recovery phase, as viral fragments in the form of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins can potentially continue to interact with ACE2 receptors and elevate blood pressure.
Furthermore, the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants adds another layer of complexity to the hypertension discussion. These variants, with specific mutations in the spike protein, may increase the risk of new-onset hypertension compared to the original Wuhan strain. Ongoing research and surveillance of new variants are necessary to understand their potential health effects.
In light of these findings, healthcare providers, researchers, and policymakers must be aware of the increased risk of new-onset hypertension in COVID-19 patients. Timely screening measures are crucial for identifying individuals at risk of developing abnormal blood pressure levels and hypertension-related cardiovascular events. Additionally, monitoring SARS-CoV-2 variants and their potential health implications is essential to better understand and mitigate the risks associated with the virus.