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Blood pressure numbers rise during pandemic

What St. Joseph's Hospital in Tucson is seeing in ER patients
Blood pressure numbers rising across the U.S
Posted at 5:30 PM, Dec 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 20:06:13-05

The pandemic has lingering effects and one of them that’s getting attention is the increased number of people dealing with newly diagnosed high blood pressure issues. KGUN 9 spoke to an expert at St. Joseph’s Hospital about new cases coming through their doors.

Internist Dr. Nathaniel Rial with St. Joseph’s says he’s seeing more people come into the emergency room who find out they have new conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease and its being diagnosed in later stages. Some of it may have been sparked by bad habits picked up by patients during the pandemic.

“People are unfortunately having symptoms of stroke hoping they go away and then presenting to the emergency department late. We see a lot of people who just haven’t gone to their primary care physician for a number of months if not years,” Rial said

The American Heart Association released a new report that says blood pressure issues got worse for both men and women since the start of the pandemic.

However, women and older adults have the highest number changes. About 500,000 adults took part in the study.

"My interpretation is that there are more females unfortunately who may not know that they have these conditions because they’re not going to regular appointments,” Rial said.

According to St. Joseph’s Hospital in 2020 there were 1,420 stroke cases that came in and in 2021 that number jumped to 1,1884. The age of the typical patient is also continuing to change.

"We’re seeing the biggest impact on unvaccinated patients. At this point the grouping of ages are now from 20 to 50,” Rial said.

Right now, experts say at about 50% of American adults have high blood pressure issues that can lead to heart disease.

Dr. Rial says the bottom line is to pay close attention to changes in your health.

"There needs to be more research to definitively describe but I think a lot of the treatments for COVID includes steroids. High dose steroids for prolonged periods of time can contribute to things like diabetes,” Rial said.

Signs of High Blood Pressure:

Links to study information: