February 4th, 2013

High blood pressure 101

High-blood-pressureSummertime is great for backyard barbeques! But before you dig your hands into that salty bag of chips or bite into that savoury hot dog, have you checked your blood pressure lately?

About 1 in 5 Canadians have high blood pressure[1], medically known as hypertension. The condition is also referred to as “the silent killer” – it is symptom-less, lurking in your veins until the time is ripe to suddenly cripple you with a heart attack or stroke. Hypertension is also linked to diabetes, kidney diseases, and dementia. Because of the lack of symptoms, many people may not even know they have high blood pressure!

Factors that contribute to high blood pressure include a person’s family history and age. Although these risks are uncontrollable, a large contributing factor that can be controlled is lifestyle choices:

  • Smoking
    • Toxins in cigarettes directly irritate the blood vessels, increasing the body’s blood pressure. Reduce the number of cigarettes smoked, or best, quit the habit. London Drugs offers smoking cessation clinics to help you find the right program for you.
  • Exercise
    • Regular activity, even as modest as a 30-minute walk four days a week, will help strengthen the heart and decrease blood pressure over time.
  • Diet
    • Eat healthy by choosing foods low in fat and cholesterol to protect the blood vessels. Opt for more whole grains and vegetables, while reducing meats and fast foods.
  • Sodium (Salt)
    • Salt increases blood pressure by making the body retain fluid. Avoid adding extra salt at the table, and eating processed food (microwave dinners, canned soups, etc).
  • Stress
    • Not always easy, but relaxation techniques like meditation or even simply taking time to slow down will calm your nerves and your heart.

The difficulty with managing blood pressure is you cannot feel it change. Only a blood pressure machine will report the numbers of your progress. Therefore, it is important to check regularly. The average blood pressure of the general population is 120/80 mmHg. Most individuals being treated for hypertension should aim for less than 140/90 mmHg. Adequately controlling a person’s blood pressure can reduce the risk of stroke by up to 40%1!

So have you checked your blood pressure lately? If it is high, speak to your pharmacist to learn more about how to manage it. To determine your 10-year risk of heart disease, sign up for a Healthy Heart Clinic at your nearest London Drugs. For other online resources, visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation (www.heartandstroke.ca/BP), Hypertension Canada (www.hypertension.ca), and Sodium 101 (www.sodium101.ca).

Lisa Ma,
Patient Care Pharmacist,
Certified Injection Pharmacist
North Town Centre, Edmonton

[1] 2012 Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) Guidelines, Hypertension Canada. 2012


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