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The Silent Threat: High Blood Pressure Management

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that affects millions worldwide, including over 8 million Canadians. Left unmanaged, hypertension carries significant health risks. It is imperative for all Canadians to have a comprehensive understanding of its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options in order to effectively manage their health and longevity.

Contrary to a common belief, high blood pressure does not have to be an inevitable part of aging. While aging is a known risk factor, hypertension is largely preventable and manageable through a combination of healthy lifestyle choices.

For those who fear they might be living with hypertension but are hesitant to confront that possibility, it’s important to remember that knowledge is power. Understanding your health status is the first step toward taking control and making positive changes. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it can go unnoticed for years, but once identified, you can control how it impacts your daily living through lifestyle adjustments, medication, and regular monitoring.

Is high blood pressure hereditary?

High blood pressure can develop from a combination of factors:

  • Genetic predisposition: Family history of hypertension increases your risk.
  • Lifestyle factors: Eating a diet high in salt, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and chronic stress.
  • Underlying health conditions: Kidney disease and hormonal disorders can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Age: The natural aging process can increase the risk of developing hypertension.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure can develop without any obvious cause. This is known as primary or essential hypertension. For some individuals, their lifestyle and family history may not directly correspond with a diagnosis.

The Dangers of Unchecked High Blood Pressure

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in heart disease, strokes, eye issues, dementia, kidney disease, and erectile dysfunction. When blood pressure remains high for an extended period, it can damage the artery walls, causing them to become narrow and stiff. This restricts blood flow and puts a strain on the heart, leading to potentially life-threatening complications.

Signs Your Blood Pressure May Be Running High

In most cases, high blood pressure does not present any obvious symptoms and can only be detected by measuring it with a device called a sphygmomanometer, commonly referred to as a blood pressure monitor or blood pressure cuff. This is common equipment in a physician’s office and blood pressure measurement is a routine measure during your annual health assessment or when serious health issues arise. However, some individuals may experience the following symptoms:

  • Severe headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult with your healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis right away. Regular monitoring is indispensable for early detection and management of hypertension.

Is It Reversible? Treatment Options for High Blood Pressure

While hypertension can’t be entirely reversed, it can be significantly reduced to lower your risk of health complications.

Lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of hypertension management. However, determining which changes to make is highly personalized to your needs and preferences. Advice, guidance and support from a collaborative, multidisciplinary healthcare team plays a key role in achieving sustained improvement in hypertension control.

A Harrison client who was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure, successfully transformed his health under the guidance of his care team. Working closely with Registered Dietitian Dayna Zarn, he revamped his diet to be rich in protein and fiber. He also adjusted his workout routine from primarily cardio to incorporate weight training thanks to the advice from the Exercise Physiology team. One year later and without the use of medication, he shed over 40 pounds and his blood pressure was reduced significantly.

When lifestyle adjustments alone aren’t enough to bring blood pressure down to safe levels, medications may be prescribed. There are several types of blood pressure medications, each working in a different way to lower pressure. Consistent medication adherence, monitoring, and ongoing lifestyle management are vital components in hypertension management.

A Guide to Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home

Home blood pressure monitoring using a personal blood pressure monitor and cuff can be a valuable tool for managing hypertension and is recommended for those with diabetes, chronic kidney disease, a history of high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and heart disease. Consistent tracking outside the clinical office helps your team identify potential triggers and evaluate the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment strategies.

7 essentials of effective home blood pressure monitoring:

  1. Sit up with your back supported and feet on the floor
  2. Find a quiet, relaxing space
  3. Ensure your arm is bare and supported
  4. Use a cuff of the correct size positioned at heart level
  5. Take it at the same time(s) every day
  6. Rest for 5 mins (without talking) before your first reading
  7. Plan your timing for measurement: before taking blood pressure medication; at least two hours after a meal, one hour after tobacco, alcohol or caffeine use; after emptying your bladder/bowels if needed; and 30-60 minutes after exercise.

Please remember that extreme room temperatures, anxiety, and pain can each affect your blood pressure reading.

When considering purchasing a machine for home, discuss with your nurse or look for the Hypertension Canada gold or silver check mark symbols. You can also visit Hypertension Canada for a list of recommended devices.

For anyone seeking more detailed information or support, resources such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation offer valuable guidance, including instructional videos on home monitoring and educational podcasts.

Create Habits for Longevity with Support from Harrison

Understanding and managing high blood pressure is a multifaceted approach involving lifestyle changes, possible medication, and regular monitoring. By addressing the factors within your control, you can significantly reduce your health risks and lead a healthier life.

Your Harrison Healthcare team is ready and eager to support you through every step of this journey. We invite you to reach out and schedule an appointment for your personalized health assessment. Together, we can make a meaningful difference in your health and well-being. Remember, when it comes to your health, knowledge is power.


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We would like to acknowledge with gratitude that we operate on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations in Vancouver, and of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Mountain Nakoda Nations, and the Métis Nation (Region 3) in Calgary. With appreciation, we recognize that these lands have been stewarded by them since time immemorial.

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