Covid-19 and Hypertension: What it means for working professionals

Controlling high blood pressure (HBP) among employees at the workplace has been of increasing interest to business leaders and health professionals, and the ongoing pandemic gives us an apt moment to step back and reflect on this.

Consider the familiar visuals of slogan shouting crowd at the capital or episodic sniper attacks at the border; the labile roller-coaster stock market at Dalal street or the stagnant Yamuna overcast by polluted Delhi air; the ‘compulsive’ scroll of breaking news on television channels, do just one thing – releasing a heavy burst of adrenaline; resulting in our heart beating faster and our blood pressure (BP) shooting up.

In today’s connected world, you don’t even need to reach home, land on your favourite sofa and switch on the TV; your smartphone is good enough to supply that intermittent dose of addictive adrenaline, way more than your system is designed to handle. Add to this, the problem of those extra amount of salt in your fast food, lack of time for exercise, smoking and diabetes; and all of us would agree that there is a reason why more than 970 million people today (roughly 26% of the adult world population) has hypertension.

Unlike many illnesses and diseases, high blood pressure garners the reputation as the “silent killer,” since there may not be any noticeable symptoms. High blood pressure can be an extremely dangerous and costly disease if you have an employee who isn’t aware of the condition, or does not properly manage the condition. The complications of untreated high blood pressure can notably impact your employee’s time and their productivity in the workplace.

The good news is that a simple BP instrument, a health worker and 5 minutes of your time, is all that we need to screen you for high blood pressure; the bad news, we refuse to do it; only one fifth of all hypertensive patients in India are detected, and a much smaller fraction treated. Unlike what most people think, the ravages of high blood pressure is seen in every segment of health care; from busy ERs where patients come with heart attack, to sedate labour rooms, where pregnant ladies present with eclampsia (a pregnancy related complication of high blood pressure); from ophthalmology, with visual dimness; to nephrology with kidney failure. The main problem of hypertension is that, it has no symptoms; till a catastrophic disease like stroke or heart attack takes place.

And then came COVID 19.

COVID pandemic is a new challenge, something akin to the meteor hit that decimated the mighty dinosaurs. It is even more stressful because the faith and confidence of general public on health care system, even in advanced western countries, suddenly looked shaken. With no curative medicine in sight, vaccine still in research phase, closeted inside our 6X6 bedrooms all that we can do is google for information on COVID.

Being a global crisis, all medical associations and journals are updating their thought and concepts online for use by researchers. This helps researchers no doubt, but the volume of contradictory data could create a problem in peoples’ psyche and that’s what exactly happened.

With up to 35% of people taking anti-hypertensive drugs containing ACEI or ARB, singly or in combination with other drugs, our telephones started ringing. That was still fine, but a much larger population simply stopped taking the medicines.

Five prominent societies including European Society of Hypertension (ESH); European Society of Cardiology Council of Hypertension, Hypertension Canada, Canadian Cardiovascular Society and the Renal Association UK have independently announced that there is no data to withhold these important medicines for patients of hypertension due to the emergence of COVID.

So, in case you are on such a drug ACEI – name ending with “pril” (enalapril, lisinopril, ramipril, perindopril) or ARB – name ending with “sartans” (losartan, telmisartan, valsartan, olmesartan), don’t panic or stop it, continue taking it.

For those millions of people with hypertension, controlled by these medicines, stopping BP drugs on unfounded fear might create a far more dangerous situation than COVID itself. Thus, while keeping the bottom line in check is important, but keeping your employees happy, healthy and engaged in the work they do is priceless.

[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Contributor: Dr. Tiny Nair, MD, DM, FACC, FRCP, Head, Dept. of Cardiology, PRS Hospital, Trivandrum, Kerala, India. [/box]

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top