25% to 50% of people who reported to hospitals in China with coronavirus in December 2019, had hypertension or other comorbidities like diabetes, cancer, or heart conditions. In Italy, 75% of COVID-related deaths included hypertensives. Hypertension and severe COVID symptoms have a genetic connection. But how interlinked are they? Read on to find out more!
The clinical and epidemiological features of COVID-19 have been under constant study and several research studies have been published about it over the last several weeks.
A lot of focus is on the comorbidities that have an association with COVID, in particular.
The most common comorbidities in one report were hypertension (30%), diabetes (19%), and coronary heart disease (8%).
ACE inhibitors, which are used to treat hypertension, have been researched to increase the ACE2 receptor expression, to which the coronavirus binds to.
But, it is important to note that none of these can be declared as a 'cause' of COVID since these are more prevalent in the elders, who appear to be at an increased risk for COVID.
However, blood pressure control is extremely important to reduce the impact of COVID in your body.
Genetics and COVID
The coronavirus appears to affect any individual despite factors like their age or gender.
However, recent research reveals that some people tend to have more severe symptoms, in comparison to others who may experience mild symptoms or be completely asymptomatic.
Some genetic factors tend to influence how the virus enters your body, and consequently, how the virus affects you as well.
Hypertension - A risk factor for COVID?
There is a wide acceptance amongst the scientific community that there is a genetic risk factor that causes severe symptoms in some individuals, while rendering other asymptomatic.
One such disease that scientists have researched is hypertension.
The limited studies on this reveal that the novel coronavirus latches on to the human protein ACE2 receptors and gains entry into the lungs.
Hypertensive individuals are prescribed Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme(ACE) inhibitors, and some studies have shown that these medications increase the number of ACE receptors, thereby increasing the portals for entry of the virus.
There are, however, opposing theories with a few groups of scientists saying that the ACE2 can actually protect the lungs from a very severe infection of 2019- nCov.
Genetics’ play in hypertension
A very common health condition that is prevalent today is hypertension or abnormally high blood pressure.
A blood pressure level of 120/80mm Hg is considered normal, and having blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/80 mm Hg is called hypertension, in an otherwise healthy individual.
Though a common condition today, hypertension runs in families, and therefore, genetics and heredity may play a major role in determining the disease risk.
Individuals who have hypertensive parents tend to have an increased risk of developing the condition. However, how the exact inheritance of this condition is still unknown.
Many Genome-Wide studies have been conducted to study the influence of genes on the development of hypertension.
Hypertension and COVID: Reducing your risk using 23andMe DNA data
Some genes that have a significant role to play in the development of hypertension are –
- CYP1 1B2
With the currently available studies, it has been observed that there are many genes that play a role in the pathophysiology of hypertension. It is highly unlikely that just one or two will emerge as the leading genes associated with the condition.
Now it is as simple as just following 3 simple steps to identify your risk for hypertension using your DNA raw data.
Signs to look out for to check for COVID when you have hypertension
So far, it is quite evident that hypertension is high-risk comorbidity that results in severe symptoms if affected by COVID.
Pneumonia is one of the most common complications in severe cases.
In a hypertensive individual, high blood pressure damages the blood vessels and arteries. Therefore, it results in reduced blood flow to the heart.
As a result, your heart needs to work extra hard to pump blood, so it reaches all parts of your body.
When this happens over a period of time, it results in the weakening of the heart muscles.
The same effect can occur when there is hypercholesterinemia occurs together with hypertension.
Most common symptoms to look out for if you suspect a COVID infection include:
- Dry cough
- Breathing difficulty and shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Decreased immunity
- Reduced kidney function
Tips for managing your blood pressure to reduce your risk for COVID
As a hypertensive individual, you need to take extra care to reduce your chances of contracting COVID. Here are some guidelines that you need to follow:
- Stay indoors as much as possible and avoid crowded places
- Maintain social distancing
- Limit or avoid contact with sick individuals
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and face
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you return home from outdoors
- Always use a facemask when amongst people
- DO NOT STOP taking your hypertension medications
- Avoid non-essential travel and short trips
- Monitor your blood pressure levels daily
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce your stress levels by practicing yoga or other forms of indoor physical activity
- Clean and disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, countertops, etc.
- Stock-up on essential medications like those for hypertension, fever, cough and any other prescription medications
Do you have your DNA raw data file from 23andMe, AncestryDNA, FTDNA, LivingDNA, etc.?
Upload your DNA raw data to Xcode Life to know your genetic predisposition to hypertension.