High blood pressure: Why experts are worried

It’s a growing problem — but solutions are within reach
A woman holds her hand to her chest while experiencing discomfort

You need to know what blood pressure is, and how to manage it, if you want to prevent heart disease or stroke.

But too many of us do not understand high blood pressure and its risks, according to a recent Heart & Stroke survey of almost 1,000 health professionals. Respondents expressed worry that many people in Canada don’t even know they have this serious condition.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is the number one risk factor for stroke, and a major risk factor for heart disease. It affects one in four adults in Canada — about 8 million people.

It typically develops with no warning signs — which is why it is sometimes called the “silent killer.”

Awareness is key

More than seven in 10 health professionals are concerned that people are uninformed about high blood pressure and its effects, according to our survey. They also worry that more people developed hypertension during the pandemic, for a variety of reasons including increased stress and lack of exercise, plus not having in-person medical checkups.

Treating high blood pressure is highly effective for reducing heart disease and stroke, and preventing disability and death. But treatment and control has decreased over 10 years, especially for women.

Seven in 10 survey respondents said we’re not doing enough to screen for high blood pressure. A majority also worry that people with the highest risk usually find it hard to access the right treatment and support. 

Reducing risk

The more you know about high blood pressure, the easier it becomes to control and prevent it from developing into a major health risk.

“If we can prevent high blood pressure or manage it through changes to lifestyle and medication, we can dramatically reduce stroke and heart disease,” says Dr. Patrice Lindsay, Director, Health Systems, Heart & Stroke.

Key ways to reduce your risk include consuming less salt, getting regular physical activity, eating a healthy diet, managing stress and being smoke free.

Heart & Stroke recommends seeing your healthcare provider to get your blood pressure checked and to discuss treatment options if needed. You can also check your own blood pressure in many pharmacies, or at home using a monitor recommended by Hypertension Canada.