A new global set of guidelines released today (International Society of Hypertension 2020 Global Hypertension Practice Guidelines) will help countries across the world manage hypertension, which is particularly critical in the current COVID-19 environment.
Professor Markus Schlaich, from The University of Western Australia, Royal Perth Hospital Research Foundation and head of Perth’s Dobney Hypertension Centre, played a lead role in developing the guidelines.
Professor Schlaich said hypertension was the leading cause of death globally, affecting more than 1.4 billion people and accounting for more than 28,000 deaths each day.
“In addition, people with high blood pressure appear to be more vulnerable to the serious complications of COVID-19 compared to the general population, and it is of particular importance for Australians living with raised blood pressure to pay attention to their overall health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Professor Schlaich said.
“The Dobney Hypertension Centre has been inundated with calls from GPs whose patients are concerned that the medications they are taking to control their blood pressure might make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
“The theoretical concerns that some blood pressure lowering medications may increase the likelihood of getting infected with SARS-CoV-19 are unfounded at this stage. In fact, some very recent international reports suggest that these medications may help to prevent some of the severe complications of COVID-19.
“It’s important for patients to remain on their prescribed medications in line with advice from their doctor.”
Professor Schlaich said the guidelines aimed to reduce the health burden of hypertension which was significant, yet often ignored.
“It’s a health threat which affects people from every country and socio-economic group, so we hope these simple guidelines provide best approaches regarding the management of hypertension and easy-to-follow recommendations for health professionals and their patients,” he said.
“They are particularly important because around 70 per cent of individuals with hypertension reside in low-and-middle-income countries.”
The guidelines provide recommendations on “essential” (the minimal standard of care that should be provided) and “optimal” standard of care (care that should be provided when resources allow). They include advice such as the use of accurate blood pressure measurement devices, importance of blood pressure lowering medications and standards for health care provision.
“We encourage health professionals, policy-makers and the general public to familiarise themselves with these guidelines,” Professor Schlaich said.
“When you consider the majority of people living with hypertension are unaware they have this potentially life-threatening condition, it makes the utmost sense to check your pressure, see your doctor and stay informed.”