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INDIANAPOLIS Nearly two years into the pandemic and the list of ways it’s affected people’s lives is exhaustive.

Not only has the virus itself now killed 800,000 Americans, but it’s had lasting effects on our mental and physical health. That includes our blood pressures.

Researchers looking at the blood pressure of more than a half million Americans from all 50 states have detailed significant increases from April to December of 2020. The increases in that particular time period are notable as there was virtually no increase in the period from 2019 to the start of 2020.

Currently, high blood pressure affects almost half of U.S. adults, and can lead to problems such as heart attack, stroke and chronic kidney disease. While extremely common, doctors say dealing with blood pressure issues is difficult in part because many people don’t even know they have the issue. Something that’s been compounded as the pandemic has led to many people avoiding visits to their doctor.

“One of the impacts that unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people’s healthcare is that we’ve seen a lot of people not go to the doctor quite as much as they used to–whether it’s fear of getting COVID-19 or just wanting to be isolated, said Kyle Frick, a cardiologist with IU Health.

“So, that’s causing a lot of people to have lots to follow up on with in the healthcare system or even run out of their medications. We do see a lot of folks come in with hypertension, that’s very common. But there’s almost certainly a large percentage of people who just aren’t going to the doctor yet.”

Many times, high blood pressure can be dealt with through things like lifestyle modifications such as eating better, reducing sodium intake and exercise. There’s also medication that can be prescribed. Frick says it all starts with first being to identify the problem.

Taking care of elevated blood pressure when somebody is asymptomatic, it’s not a big deal, your primary care physician anybody can get you started on a pretty good regimen and prevent long-term problems,” Frick said. “What we really don’t want to see is 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now the results of this hypertension that’s been untreated which would lead to big things like stroke heart attack increase your risk of dying. So now is the time to get these things under control.”

Frick recommends regularly checking your blood pressure with your doctor or at home as a way to keep tabs on any issues.