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Rockville, Md. (June 8, 2022)—Arterial stiffness and blood pressure in young, otherwise healthy adults may take as long as six months to improve following a COVID-19 infection, according to research conducted at Appalachian State University in North Carolina. The discovery was made in a follow-up study using longitudinal tracking of people recently infected with COVID-19. The findings are published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology, and the study has been chosen as an APSselect article for June.

“I think this is a step in the right direction to understanding the potential long-term vascular
complications caused by COVID-19.”
—Stephen Ratchford, PhD

Physiologists wanted to know if or when arterial stiffness and blood pressure in 14 young adults (seven men and seven women) would improve following a COVID-19 infection. Progress in these areas would ultimately improve vascular health during the recovery process. Arterial stiffness is typically caused by aging, hardening of artery walls and inflammation. Increased arterial stiffness or blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, hypertension and stroke.

The researchers performed testing on the study volunteers in a lab once a month for six months. Testing included a health survey and measurements of blood pressure and pulse wave velocity, and pulse wave analysis, among other markers of arterial disease. Researchers began seeing improvements to arterial stiffness and blood pressure by months five and six. The results of the study suggest that several months of recovery after infection may be necessary, even for young, healthy adults.

“We need a better understanding of the long-term impact of COVID-19,” said Stephen Ratchford, PhD, principal investigator on the study. “I think this is a step in the right direction to understanding the potential long-term vascular complications caused by COVID-19. If it can take young, relatively healthy individuals this long to recover, I am curious about more susceptible populations and how others will recover following additional infections with other COVID-19 variants.”

Read the full article, “Six-month longitudinal tracking of arterial stiffness and blood pressure in young adults following SARS-CoV-2 infection.” It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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