Since the Covid-19 global pandemic began, our lives have significantly changed. In the US, we turned out the polls on Election Day, adjusted to wearings face masks and saw in real time so many levels of inequality perpetuated by centuries of oppression exacerbated by the coronavirus.
A new study says the stress of it all is apparent in American adults' –– especially women –– blood pressure.
The study, published Monday (December 6) in the journal Circulation, examined health data taken from more than 480,000 American workers and their spouses taken through their employers' wellness programs. A part of the program included getting blood pressure readings annually between 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Researchers found that the blood pressure readings taken between April and December 2020 were significantly higher than 2019. On average, the systolic pressure readings (or the top number) rose by 1.1 to 2.5 mmHg while the diastolic pressure (bottom number) increased by 0.14 to 0.53 mmHg.
The data came from across all 50 states and D.C. And while both men and women across multiple age groups saw a rise in their pressure, researchers noted that women had a larger increase.
"We did see more pronounced increases in blood pressure in women. Now, we don't know the exact reason for that. However, we do know and there's data to suggest that the pandemic has tended to place more of an outsized burden on women, particularly women that work, and this is an employer-sponsored wellness program," Dr. Luke Laffin, co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic told CNN.
For Black women, even before the pandemic, we were 60% more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than other women. Heart disease among Black women is the number one cause of death and disability, studies have shown.
In terms of how we got here, Laffin says the "multifactorial" nature of blood pressure means it could be a lot of different things increasing blood pressure readings in American adults.
"It probably does have to do with what we're eating, amongst other things," Laffin said, adding that "too much sodium or drinking more alcohol" increase blood pressure –– and both, Laffin said, have increased during the pandemic.
Add to the chronic stress we're experiencing and the study's results becomes more clear.
There are ways to help support heart health and gain control of your blood pressure –– one being to get it checked by a health professional to see where you're at.
Other tips from the Mayo Clinic include regularly exercising, reducing sodium, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, reducing stress and caffeine and getting support from your loved ones.
To learn more about getting your blood pressure in check, please click here.