"My blood pressure definitely went up," Ken Olivier said.
And doctors say the 60-year-old isn't alone.
"Here in New York City, we're seeing elevations of blood pressure across the board," NYU Langone Dr. Lawrence Phillips told CBS2's Alice Gainer on Monday.
"I even saw it in myself. My blood pressure went up during COVID as well, and several of my colleagues said the same thing," added Dr. Ajay Kirtane, a cardiologist at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University's Irving Medical Center.
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"It was a dramatic change in their lifestyles. We see increased weight. We see increased alcohol use. We see more of a sedentary lifestyle, as well as poor eating habits," Phillips said.
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Using health data from an employee wellness program, researchers looked at blood pressure dating back to 2018, 2019 and 2020 for nearly half a million adults, with an average age of 46.
It showed that before the pandemic, blood pressure was largely unchanged. But from April 2020 to December 2020, more people had higher blood pressure.
"The highest increase was actually seen in women," said Dr. Luke Laffin, the study's author.
Laffin, the co-director of the Center for Blood Pressure Disorders at the Cleveland Clinic, said it's not clear why.
"The pandemic put stress on women, particularly women that work, and the stress of potentially helping their kids through remote learning and not taking the time to exercise or eat right or fill that prescription medication," Laffin said.
When asked if the new findings should serve as a wake-up call, Laffin said, "We can't forget about just our general or routine health maintenance."
"High blood pressure causes adverse cardiac events -- strokes, heart attacks, other problems," Kirtane added.
Doctors continue to remind Americans it's safe to return to their doctor's office. They recommend an at-home blood pressure cuff or to get checked at a pharmacy and report the numbers to doctors.
And make sure to take medications.
As for Olivier's blood pressure, he said, "It's now much better after losing 15 pounds."
What went up, needs to come down.
Researchers will be following up on the results to see if the trend continued in 2021. It could indicate a forthcoming wave of strokes and heart attacks.
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