One in five Canadians have high blood pressure — and may not even know

Almost one in five Canadian adults have high blood pressure that puts them at risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, but a significant proportion are unaware they even have the condition, a survey has found.

Almost one in five Canadian adults have high blood pressure that puts them at risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease, but a significant proportion are unaware they even have the condition, a survey has found.

The Statistics Canada study, the most comprehensive health survey involving direct physical measures ever carried out in the country, suggests about 4.6 million Canadians aged 20 to 79 have high blood pressure.

“Altogether, we found that the prevalence of hypertension was 19 per cent, and that 19 per cent included both those who were on medication and those whose blood pressure reading was in the hypertensive range,” said Kathryn Wilkins, a senior analyst at Statistics Canada who led the study.

“It went up dramatically with age,” Wilkins said Wednesday from Ottawa. “In the age group 20 to 39, there was only a prevalence of two per cent of hypertension; at ages 40 to 59, it was 19 per cent; and then at 60 to 79, over half — 53 per cent of people — had hypertension.”

A person is considered to have high blood pressure if their top, or systolic, reading is 140 or greater, and the bottom, or diastolic, number is at or exceeds 90.

The 2007-2009 survey of 3,514 adults found that 20 per cent had readings in the pre-hypertension range, while 61 per cent had normal blood pressure.

Wilkins said the Canadian Health Measures Survey is the first to use direct, automated measures of blood pressure and self-reported use of blood pressure medication to build a profile of among the population.

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