Study: COVID-19 pandemic increased health inequities among people with high blood pressure

Young African-American man with face mask stands with his hand over his heart in discomfort.

COVID-19 has increased health inequities among people with high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart disease, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.  

That’s the conclusion of the proceedings from the 4th Annual University of Utah Translational Hypertension Symposium, which virtually gathered a group of clinicians, researchers, and health care leaders to discuss how the pandemic affected hypertension and the socioeconomic factors contributing to health disparities.  

The panel noted that the pandemic caused a major shift in hypertension care in which in-person office visits were replaced by virtual appointments. That shift left many patients with hypertension vulnerable, as many did not have access to home blood pressure monitors to check their blood pressure regularly. In addition, lack of internet access and inadequate or limited digital literacy to participate in virtual appointments posed barriers for some.  
The panelists identified several other barriers to achieving healthy blood pressure levels during the pandemic, including a lack of health insurance, the challenge of adhering to medication regimens, lack of access to health foods or health care facilities, and the cost of medications. In addition, they identified racial bias among health care professionals as a barrier.  

To close the gap, the panelists recommended improving community-based outreach and education as well as blood pressure self-monitoring, particularly in communities of color and the uninsured. The study was funded in part by the NHLBI.