High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects more than one in five adults in Canada. It’s the most common reason to visit a doctor, resulting in over 21 million physician visits a year in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). Hypertension is also the number one reason for taking medication.
High blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, dementia, kidney failure and heart failure, according to the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP). Nearly 20% of Canadians with hypertension aren’t aware of the condition because they don’t have their blood pressure checked regularly and don’t notice any symptoms, says PHAC.
To manage or prevent high blood pressure, have your blood pressure checked regularly by a healthcare professional. Your doctor can also give you an appropriate blood pressure target based on your age or other conditions, such as diabetes, where the target is lower, according to HealthLink BC.
How to ease high blood pressure
Fortunately, if detected, high blood pressure can be controlled with some of the following lifestyle changes, medication, or both:
1. Consume less salt. High amounts of sodium are found in many types of convenience and snack foods, and smoked, salted, cured or canned meats and fish. Eat less of these foods and use less salt in cooking or at the table, says the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, which recommends eating less than 1 tsp. of salt a day in total.
2. Eat healthy foods. A diet low in salt and saturated fats can make a big difference. Eat more vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
3. Be physically active each day. Regular walks or any other physical activity you enjoy can have a positive impact on blood pressure and stress.
4. Maintain a healthy body weight. Losing only five pounds, if you’re overweight, can help lower your blood pressure, says Mayo Clinic
5. Drink moderately. Limit alcohol intake to 1 to 2 standard drinks a day or less, such as a regular-sized glass of wine or beer, says PHAC. Drinking more than that can raise blood pressure and reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.
6. Manage stress. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation or tai chi.
7. Take medication as prescribed. Making lifestyle changes at the same time can reduce the dosage or number of medications needed to control blood pressure in some cases.