Patients with raised blood pressure have a two-fold increased risk of dying from coronavirus compared to patients without high blood pressure, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal.

The research, which included a team at NUI Galway, also found that patients with high blood pressure who were not taking medication to control the condition, were at even greater risk of dying from Covid-19.

It found a lower risk of death among patients treated with certain heart drugs, versus others.

The researchers found a lower risk of death among the 183 patients treated with renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS inhibitors) than in 527 patients treated with other non- RAAS heart drugs.

RAAS drugs include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). 

Non-RAAS inhibiting drugs used for treating high blood pressure include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers (CCBs) or diuretics.

However, the study's authors caution that as the number of patients in this analysis was small, it could be due to chance.

The researchers said there are three remaining questions they hope the clinical trial in Ireland will answer.

They are: 

  • What kind of medication should be given to Covid-19 patients with hypertension (RAAS inhibitors, or non-RAAS inhibitors)? 
  • Could these medications mitigate the risk of dying in these patients? 
  • And whether or not RAAS inhibitors influence the risk of infection for Covid-19?

The team said a recent population-based study in the New England Journal of Medicine has suggested that anti-hypertensive medications, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs, are not associated with an increased risk of testing positive for Covid-19.

The Galway team are Professors Patrick W Serruys, Osama Soliman, Yoshi Onuma, William Wijns, J William McEvoy and were all co-authors on the paper.

The team collaborated with a team in China and have analysed data from 2,866 patients with Covid-19, who were admitted to Huo Shen Shan hospital in Wuhan between 5 February and 15 March.