Diseases & Conditions

Uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes tied to severe COVID-19 outcomes

News briefs

By , Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

photo of a home health aide measuring the blood pressure of a smiling senior woman

Here's another incentive for people with high blood pressure or diabetes to lower their numbers: a study of almost 1.5 million people in the United States suggests that having uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes prior to getting COVID-19 sharply increases the risk for COVID complications. Researchers evaluated participants' health both before and during the time they developed COVID (from March 2020 to February 2022). Compared with people whose blood pressure was the best controlled before getting infected, those with the worst-controlled blood pressure had about 30% greater odds of needing hospitalization or critical care and 32% greater odds of being on a ventilator. Among participants with diabetes, those whose blood sugar was most poorly controlled before getting COVID had about 61% greater odds of being hospitalized, 42% greater odds of needing critical care, 12% greater odds of being on a ventilator, and 18% greater odds of dying, compared with those whose blood sugar was the best controlled. The study, published online Oct. 18, 2023, by the Journal of the American Heart Association, was observational and doesn't prove that controlling diabetes and high blood pressure protects against COVID complications. But we know for sure that controlling these conditions also reduces the risks of heart or kidney disease and premature death—and that's reason enough.

Image: © Halfpoint Images/Getty Images

To continue reading this article, you must log in.

Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.

  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »

I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.

Sign Me Up

Already a member? Login ».

About the Author

photo of Heidi Godman

Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio
View all posts by Heidi Godman

About the Reviewer

photo of Anthony L. Komaroff, MD

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff is the Steven P. Simcox/Patrick A. Clifford/James H. Higby Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, senior physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and editor in chief of the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

You might also be interested in…

Controlling Your Blood Pressure

An alarming one in three American adults has high blood pressure. Known medically as hypertension, many people don't even know they have it, because high blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs. But when elevated blood pressure is accompanied by abnormal cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to your arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially. Fortunately, high blood pressure is easy to detect and treat. In the Special Health Report, Controlling Your Blood Pressure, find out how to keep blood pressure in a healthy range simply by making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, increasing activity, and eating more healthfully.

Read More

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Sign Up
Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.