Written by Dr Miriam Stoppard OBE
Dr Miriam Stoppard has spent many years as a TV doctor including having her own show for 15 years – as well as authoring over 80 books and writing columns for the Daily Mirror. As Health and Wellbeing Advisor for Stannah, given her trusted advice we have invited her to help to answer your health-related questions during Covid-19.
In this Q&A, Dr Miriam addresses concerns around living with high blood pressure at this time, namely the risks posed by the virus and precautions to take. Dr Miriam has previously offered her expertise to support people with other conditions like Parkinson’s Disease, asthma and diabetes.
Question: I have high blood pressure. Am I at greater risk as a result? What precautions can I take to stay safe?
Answer: Yes, with high blood pressure you’re in a vulnerable group, but not the most vulnerable. Scientists haven’t yet sorted out how an elevated blood pressure could make a person vulnerable to Covid-19.
Some people are worried that their blood pressure drugs (ACE inhibitors) could affect a person’s response to the infection. The theory is that these drugs increase the number of ACE receptors which exist in high numbers within the airways and lungs. Covid-19 uses these ACE receptors as a doorway into the body. The spikes on the virus fit into the surface of an ACE receptor like a key into a lock. Once the virus has entered a cell, it persuades it to manufacture copies of the virus. But in the biggest study published from nine hospitals in Hubei Province, China, the opposite is true. Patients taking ACE inhibitors have a death rate of less than half of those who didn’t, leading doctors to believe that these drugs are safe.
As a vulnerable person you should still be adhering to isolation rules – find someone to get and deliver your meds and food, stay at home as much as possible, no visitors, take an hour or so’s exercise once a day close to home and socially distance at all times. The most recent freedom is that you can meet with up with up to five people from outside your household including in private gardens.
If you experience symptoms of Covid-19 (e.g. a new continuous cough, fever, loss of the sense smell or taste, shortness of breath), phone NHS 111.