Hypertension more than doubles the risk of hospitalization related to Omicron infection, even in people who are fully vaccinated and boosted, according to a new study led by investigators in the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai. The findings are published in the journal Hypertension.
The risk is especially widespread given that nearly 1 out of every 2 adults in the U.S. have hypertension, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The take-home message is that avoiding infection is extremely important — even when the circulating viral variant is presumed to cause mild disease in most people,” said Joseph E. Ebinger, MD, a clinical cardiologist and director of clinical analytics at the Smidt Heart Institute and first author of the study.
By reviewing electronic medical records, Cedars-Sinai investigators identified 912 people who were fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine, received a booster shot and were subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19 during the Omicron surge that occurred in Southern California from Dec. 1, 2021 through April 20, 2022. Of these individuals, 145 required hospitalization.
“We were surprised to learn that many people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 had hypertension and no other risk factors,” said Susan Cheng, MD, MPH, director of the Institute for Research on Healthy Aging in the Department of Cardiology at the Smidt Heart Institute and a senior author of the study. “This is concerning when you consider that almost half of American adults have high blood pressure.”
The team also found that chronic kidney disease, having had a heart attack, or heart failure, greatly increases the risk of hospitalization after infection.
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