A survey conducted by the Heart and Stroke foundation found that eight in 10 health-care professionals are concerned about the rising rate of high blood pressure cases in Canada, as the foundation reports nearly eight million Canadians have been affected by the heart condition.
In collaboration with Environics Research, the survey, conducted online, asked 982 health experts, including doctors, nurses, first responders and therapists, what they are most concerned about for Canadians. Seven in 10 respondents said they are concerned many aren’t aware of what hypertension is or how to detect if they have it.
Hypertension occurs when blood pressure in the arteries rises, causing the heart to exert itself to pump blood into a person’s blood vessels. Currently, one in four Canadians are affected by high blood pressure, according to the Heart and Stroke foundation.
Toronto-based family physician, Dr. Rahul Jain says there are a myriad of reasons as to why high blood pressure is on the rise, including lack of education among Canadians, lack of accessible health care and increased challenges from the pandemic.
Jain says the survey highlights Canada’s need to improve on three essential pillars: prevention detection, treatment and education.
“There’s many potential opportunities, and I think they really fall under raising awareness to education, which is key, and then also working on prevention detection and treatment,” Jain told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Tuesday.
The survey found seven in 10 healthcare professionals are worried demographics at the highest risk of hypertension are facing barriers to lack support and treatment for hypertension, specifically women.
According to the heart and stroke foundation, treatment for women has gone down over the last 10 years, which has become a concern since different groups of women are already at risk for hypertension due to uncontrollable factors.
“Some groups in Canada are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure, including women over age 65 in certain ethnic groups, such as those of South Asian and African heritage,” Jain said. “We also see hypertension in pregnancy as an important risk factor for future stroke and heart disease.”
Factors like ethnicity, family history and gender all play a role in the increased risk of hypertension. However, outside factors like the pandemic have made access to health care difficult for many as hospitals and doctor’s offices at times can become overwhelmed, and patients being less likely to visit their family physician for help.
“If patients weren’t coming into our clinics as often, you know, we might be missing those new conditions that are going undiagnosed and then potentially causing damage to the body and existing conditions for people to have established hypertension are often worsening,” he said.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Jain says it’s essential for Canadians to stay informed about what hypertension is and how to prevent it, as its effects can lead to damaged organs, including the heart, brain, kidneys and eyes.
“We can use the analogy of high blood pressure, being similar to pumping too much air into a tire or balloon, which can eventually become damaged and burst if the pressure is too high,” he said.
While people with high blood pressure don’t show warning signs or symptoms of the condition, Jain recommends Canadians seek out medical help to determine their risk of hypertension and work on preventative measures like increasing physical activity, monitoring the foods they eat and not drinking or smoking.
Additionally, Canadians can also use medically approved at-home devices or blood pressure monitors at pharmacies to keep track of their heart health.
“We encourage everyone to get their blood pressure checked regularly, and this can be at your health care provider’s office, but we also encourage out-of-office measurements, which are reliable, such as measuring your blood pressure at home with an approved device or at the pharmacy,” he said.