Medication for high blood pressure lowers the risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from Covid-19 by one third, a study suggests.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia studied 28,000 patients taking antihypertensives, a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure.
They found that the risk of severe Covid-19 illness and death fell by one third for people taking Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) or Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARB) .
Lead researcher Dr Vassilios Vassiliou, from the University of East Anglia's Norwich Medical School, said: “We found that there was a significantly lower risk of death and critical outcomes, so they might in fact have a protective role, particularly in patients with hypertension.
“Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure who were taking ACEi/ARB medications were 0.67 times less likely to have a critical or fatal outcome than those not taking these medications.
“Our research provides substantial evidence to recommend continued use of these medications if the patients were taking them already.”
Although experts are unsure about what is driving the protective effect, it could be that the drugs prevent the formation of ACE2, an enzyme which constricts blood vessels, but also helps coronavirus enter the body.
Research in June found that people with high blood pressure are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than those without.
Moreover, they found that those who avoided taking medication for the condition were at even greater risk of dying from Covid-19.
The study showed that four per cent of patients with hypertension and coronavirus died, compared with 1.1 per cent without high blood pressure.
Last year, NHS data from the Health Survey for England found that high blood pressure was rising in adults in the UK. Some 26 per cent of women had the condition compared with 30 per cent of men. Two thirds of men 75 or over have some form of hypertension.
Research from the British Heart Foundation found as many as four million people under the age of 65 are living with untreated high blood pressure.
The University of East Anglia research was published in the journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports.