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UT Southwestern study shows blood pressure rates increased during the COVID-19 pandemic

CUH Tower III, Clements University Hospital 3rd tower.
Mei-Chun Jau
UT Southwestern
CUH Tower III, Clements University Hospital 3rd tower.

A recent UT Southwestern study found people had higher blood pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Internal Medicine Professor Eric Peterson says this can have long-term health effects like strokes and heart attacks.

Researchers at UT Southwestern in Dallas found that blood pressure rates increased during the pandemic in comparison to 2019.

The study looked at more than 72,000 people managing their blood pressure at home between 2019 and the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

UT Southwestern Professor of Internal Medicine Eric Peterson, who co-authored the study, said measuring blood pressure is one way to track community health outcomes.

“High blood pressure or hypertension is sort of a poster child for chronic disease,” he said. “It’s very common. It’s also a silent problem. Blood pressure can be elevated and patients can be completely asymptomatic.”

Peterson said the elevated rates weren’t surprising, due to lockdown stressors and lower rates of exercise, but it is worrisome. Over time, high blood pressure can lead to long-term health effects like strokes and heart attacks.

“There’s unforeseen consequences of COVID which are just going to come to light after the disease passes,” Peterson said.

He is encouraged by the fact that people with severely high blood pressure were consistently taking medication and tracking at home. He also hopes this becomes routine in the coming years.

“In certain ways, I miss the way things were,” Peterson said. “I miss seeing patients all the time. But there are things I hope we hold onto. I don’t think it’s necessary for my patients who just need a routine blood pressure check to spend an hour or two out of their lives to see me. I hope we make medicine more easy to do.”

He and other UT Southwestern researchers also want to see more long-term data on blood pressure rates after the pandemic wanes.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.