Telemedicine may have helped with rising blood pressure during pandemic: study
The availability of telemedicine may have helped mitigate the rise in blood pressure levels that was observed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study published on Tuesday.
In the study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers looked at adult blood pressure data from three large health care systems: Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City and Ochsner Health in New Orleans.
They analyzed the electronic health records of 137,593 patients and found that blood pressure levels noticeably increased in the eight months after stay-at-home orders were issued in comparison to the roughly 1 1/2-year period before the pandemic.
The amount of people with controlled blood pressure — levels that are below what is considered to be high blood pressure — also dropped by about 3.4 percentage points in this same time frame.
The average age for patients in this study was 66 years old.
This is not the first study to note the pandemic’s impact on blood pressure. The American Heart Association (AHA) published its own study last year in which it observed a similar trend during the early parts of 2020. The AHA’s study found that women and older adults had the highest blood pressure measurements during the early months of the pandemic.
Even though a worsening in blood pressure was observed, the NIH noted that the results of the study were not as bad as would be expected. The agency attributed this to the “rapid adoption of telemedicine and home blood pressure monitoring.”
“The successful use of these alternatives to in-person office visits offers a reason to be optimistic about improving blood pressure control in future disasters and public health emergencies, according to the researchers,” the NIH said.
“We expected blood pressure control to be worse due to decreased physical activity, stress, poor sleep, and other cardiovascular disease risk factors that worsened during the pandemic,” study leader Hiroshi Gotanda said. “But the results were better than we expected, probably because the use of telemedicine and home monitoring of blood pressure.”
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