Heart & Vascular Program

Heart Health

Risk Factors: High Blood Pressure

With high blood pressure, your heart works harder than normal and puts blood vessels and itself both under great strain. Having high blood pressure triples your chance of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often called the silent killer because its damaging effects take place without you knowing it. It is important to have your blood pressure checked annually or more frequently if you know it is high.

High blood pressure can damage arteries, resulting in scarring and hardening. This speeds up the process of atherosclerosis and hinders blood vessels from effectively supplying the body with the blood and oxygen it requires to work properly. Other damaging effects of hypertension are kidney disease, blindness, and heart failure.

About a quarter of the population of Canada has high blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include sensitivity to salt, obesity, age, lack of regular physical exercise, heavy alcohol consumption and heredity.

Treating high blood pressure usually begins with a weight loss and exercise program and a salt-restricted diet. If these efforts are ineffective in controlling your blood pressure, you will likely be prescribed medication. You should also tell your doctor about all other medications you take, whether they are prescribed, over-the-counter or herbal. These can worsen blood pressure.