Within two years, more than a quarter of Canadian adults will be faced with one of the leading causes of death in the world, says a new study. Roughly 23% of the adult population — or six million people — were diagnosed with hypertension four years ago, and according to the study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, that figure is only expected to rise.
What Is Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)?
“Blood pressure” is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways. High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. You can have it for years without knowing it. However, this is the time high blood pressure silently causes all sorts of damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and other parts of your body. Knowing your blood pressure is important, even when you’re feeling fine. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way. If your blood pressure is too high, treatment may help prevent damage to your body’s organs.
Blood Pressure Numbers
Blood pressure is measured as systolic and diastolic pressures. “Systolic” refers to blood pressure when the heart contracts, pumping the blood. “Diastolic” refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between contractions. You most often will see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.) The table below shows normal blood pressure numbers for adults. It also shows which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems. Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg)
|Normal||Less than 120||And||Less than 80|
|High blood pressure|
|Stage 2||160 or higher||Or||100 or higher|
Blood pressure doesn’t stay the same all the time. It lowers as you sleep and rises when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you’re excited, nervous, or active. If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you’re at risk for health problems. All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk, and the risk grows as blood pressure numbers rise. “Prehypertension” means you’re likely to end up with HBP, unless you take steps to prevent it. Blood pressure also tends to rise with age. Following a healthy lifestyle helps some people delay or prevent this rise in blood pressure.
People who have high blood pressure can take steps to control it and reduce their risk of related health problems. Key steps include following a healthy and active lifestyle, having ongoing medical care, and following your treatment plan.