Hypertension: COVID-19’s Leading Underlying Killer

Posted on by Neal Barnard, MD, FACC

vegan foodHypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading underlying condition for those who have died from COVID-19. In New York, the U.S. epicenter of the virus, 52% of people who have died from COVID-19 had high blood pressure. In Louisiana, 66% had high blood pressure. African Americans, who are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, are at greater risk of hypertension. Compared to white Americans of the same ages, black Americans are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure.


At the Barnard Medical Center, we recommend a plant-based diet to help patients fight hypertension. A review in Progress in Cardiovascular Disease looked at multiple clinical trials and observational studies and found that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of hypertension by 34%. A review published in JAMA Internal Medicine looked at 39 studies and found that vegetarian diets were associated with lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures, compared with omnivorous diets. A study in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology concluded that consuming a diet that is mostly or exclusively plant-based appears beneficial for both the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

Research shows that tomato products, bok choy, raisins, mangoes, bananas, potatoes, kale, and other fruits and vegetables high in potassium may be especially beneficial. Reducing sodium intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising can also help reduce your risk of hypertension. Photo from here, with thanks.