Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is known as the silent killer. Its damaging effects can take their toll before you even know something's wrong. It also significantly increases the chance of heart disease and stroke.
Dr. Beth Abramson, director of the cardiac prevention centre at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital joined Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to talk about reducing the risk.
"We start by realizing that hypertension is the silent killer and people need to get their blood pressure checked." Abramson said. "If you don't know what your blood pressure is you can't make an assessment if it's high or normal."
She noted that guidelines and definitions for high blood pressure have changed in the past five to 10 years. Hypertension is the leading risk for stroke and heart attack in men and women and it is a risk, she said, that can be prevented.
There is a new category that doctors look for, called pre-hypertension, that starts as low as 125 over 75. Abramson said pre-hypertension means the person is on the road to developing high blood pressure and if nothing is done, the person will get into trouble. If you adjust your lifestyle by reducing salt, increasing activity and losing weight, you can lower your blood pressure out of that high normal area, she said.
At age 55, even if you have normal blood pressure, your overall risk for hypertension is 90 per cent. So at what age should you start heving your blood pressure checked?
"At all ages you should have your blood pressure checked even before your mid-life," Abramson said. "Every two years, Canadians should have their blood pressure checked."
Once in mid-life, have it checked yearly, she said. And know your numbers and what is normal for you.
As for blood pressure medications, people suffering from hypertension should expect that they will probably be on more than one medication. The average amount of blood pressure medication someone will need as they age if they have serious blood pressure problems is about three, Abramson said.