Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay 

By Glenn Townes

A study released this week by the largest health network in New Jersey revealed that hypertension is the most common co-existing condition in patients hospitalized for COVID-19. The ground breaking study may offer some explanation as to why African Americans and other people of color are being hit the hardest during the pandemic.

Hackensack Meridian Health systems, based in Hackensack, with locations and affiliates across the state, posted the study on a recently launched web site database entitled the the RE-COV-RY (Real world Evidence-COVid-RegistrY). The study is the first comprehensive analysis on the site that is designed to enhance the understanding and treatment of COVID-19. In a widely circulated press release, Robert Garrett, chief executive officer of Hackensack Meridian Health said, “This groundbreaking study will help our hospitals as well as other hospitals throughout the country, better understand the impact of potential therapies and important risk factors.”

According to various reports and studies, from various sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, high blood pressure, is one of the most common health ailments facing African Americans. Hypertension and diabetes have also been reported as prevalent and common underlying conditions in patients infected with the coronavirus. The CDC reports that about three in four hospitalized COVID-19 patients 65 and older had hypertension. Additionally,  about one in three American adults (about 67 million) has high blood pressure—with less than half having the condition under control via medication and regular diet and exercise. Hypertension are key contributors to heart disease and stroke—the two leading causes of death in the country and hits people of color the hardest.

“Advanced age appears to be the most important risk factor among hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” said Stuart Goldberg, a hematologist/oncologist and head of the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. Goldberg added that when adjusted by age, hypertension is not a major risk factor in COVID-19 mortality. “We also looked at what hypertension medications patients were taking and determined there was no detrimental effect and potentially a positive effect with the use of ACE and ARB medications,” Goldberg said.

In a related issue, in 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta provided nearly $9.1 million grant funding to New Jersey in chronic disease prevention and the promotion of healthy living and lifestyle initiatives.

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