Canadian Baby Boomers Reach Dangerous Levels of High Blood Pressure, Warns Hypertension Canada

TORONTO, April 3, 2013 /CNW/ - Hypertension Canada warns that up to half of Canadian Baby Boomers have high blood pressure or will develop high blood pressure within the next few years - which will have serious ramifications for health and the country's health care system. Adding to the scenario are troubling disparities between provinces that highlight the importance of healthy lifestyle for hypertension prevention and treatment.

"A diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) or prehypertension should be an immediate wake-up call to Canadian Baby Boomers," says cardiologist and Hypertension Canada spokesperson, Dr. Beth Abramson.  "Only the front edge of the Baby Boom generation has reached age 65, but already one out of every four, or approximately 2.2 million Boomers, has been diagnosed with hypertension.  High blood pressure is a major contributor to heart, renal and cerebrovascular disease - even though it is highly  preventable and treatable."

Recent estimates show up to 7.3 million Canadians currently suffer from hypertension compared to from nearly 5.8 million only five years ago, a 26% increase.

Because of its tremendous impact upon health and mortality, the World Health Organization has made high blood pressure the major focus of the World Health Day, celebrated this year on April 7, 2013. Worldwide, high blood pressure is responsible for 9.4 million deaths each year.

High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is reaching a dangerous tipping point among Canadian Baby Boomers. Not only do 23% of Canadian Boomers have hypertension, but another 23% are pre-hypertensive. Those with pre-hypertension have elevated blood pressures and are at a high risk of developing hypertension within the next few years.

"We know that up to a third of those with hypertension do not have their blood pressure controlled and so are at high risk of complications," says Dr. Ross Feldman, past president of Hypertension Canada and a hypertension researcher. "High blood pressure increases a woman's risk of dying by 34% and a man's risk by 44%."

Dr. Janusz Kaczorowski, spokesperson of Hypertension Canada at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre, stresses that if Baby Boomers want to live to see their retirement - let alone be healthy enough to enjoy it - lifestyle changes will be needed.

"This can only happen if the governments at all levels start implementing policies to ensure that Canadians have access to healthier foods and live in communities that actively support physical activity," he says.

High blood pressure costs the Canadian healthcare system approximately $2.4 billion in direct healthcare costs and another $166.3 million in lost productivity. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, notes Dr. Norm Campbell.  Even moderately-elevated blood pressure can double the risk of heart disease or stroke or triple the risk of end stage renal disease (kidney failure). The higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk.

Age and where you live affects your risk -- but it doesn't have to

The number of people with high blood pressure increases dramatically with age, ranging from a low of 2.5% among those 20 to 34 years of age, to 46.8% among those 65 and over.  Rates also differ across Canada, being highest among Boomers in Newfoundland and Labrador (32%) and lowest in British Columbia (20%).  This variance reflects regional differences in dietary behaviours, weight, and physical activity.

 Region Percentage of Baby Boomers 45-64 (2009/2010)
or Obese
High blood
hypertensive +
 Canada 58% 51% 60% 23% 23% 46%
 Nfld/Labrador  68% 56% 70% 32% 32% 64%
 PEI 65% 50% 61% 21% 21% 42%
 N.S. 66% 52% 68% 27% 27% 54%
 N.B. 64% 53% 70% 28% 28% 56%
 Quebec 51% 51% 58% 23% 23% 46%
 Ontario 58% 53% 60% 24% 24% 47%
 Manitoba 67% 53% 68% 23% 23% 46%
 Sask 63% 56% 66% 25% 25% 50%
 Alberta 64% 51% 62% 23% 23% 46%
 B.C. 57% 43% 53% 20% 20% 40%

Source: Statistics Canada, Canadian Community Health Survey 2009/2010 CANSIM table 105-0502
"Poor diet" indicator reporting eating <5 servings fruit/vegetables per day
Rates for prehypertension weighted to reflect provincial rate of self-reported hypertension

"Over half of people with pre-hypertension will be diagnosed with high blood pressure within four years," says Dr. Pierre Larochelle, President of Hypertension Canada at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM).  "Stopping the progression from pre-hypertension to hypertension could help to stem Canada's high blood pressure epidemic and save millions of Canadians from years of poor health."

People who are obese or have diabetes have a three times greater risk of high blood pressure.  The risk of high blood pressure is also higher for Aboriginal Canadians and Canadians of South East Asian or Black ancestry.

"By 2031, all Baby Boomers will have reached age 65," says cardiologist Dr. Chi-Ming Chow, Hypertension Canada spokesperson.  "If Baby Boomers don't take action now, by 2031 up to two-thirds will have hypertension or prehypertension.  High blood pressure will have a tremendous impact upon the sort of health Baby Boomers will enjoy in retirement.  It's hard to enjoy your retirement if you end up hospitalized with a heart attack or stroke or have to go for dialysis three times a week."

Call to action

Federal Governments

  • Work with non-governmental sectors to operationalize the Pan Canadian Framework on Hypertension Prevention and Control, a discussion paper outlining key indicators and targets for 2020, and key recommendations to improve the prevention, management and control of hypertension in Canada.
  • Implement policies that make it easier for Canadians to access healthy food choices.  Key policy areas include:  reducing sodium additives in foods, restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing directed at children, requiring healthy food in public settings, warning labels on unhealthy foods and recovering the costs of disease caused by unhealthy foods through taxation.

Provincial Governments

  • Implement standardized clinical guidelines for the screening, diagnosis, treatment and management of cardiovascular diseases that includes hypertension in Canada

To Canadians

Hypertension Canada advises all Canadians, but particularly Baby Boomers, to practice good blood pressure health.  This includes:

  • Having your blood pressure checked regularly by a healthcare professional
  • Eating a healthy, low-salt diet, low in saturated and trans fat with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Regular physical activity for at least 30 to 60 minutes at least five to seven days a week
  • Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight
  • If you drink, consuming no more than two drinks/day and never binge drinking.
  • Being tobacco free

Hypertension Canada is the country's authoritative voice on the management of high blood pressure. Committed to delivering positive benefits to the 7.3 million Canadians living with high blood pressure on a daily basis, Hypertension Canada is an influential collaboration of researchers, clinicians, and policy makers dedicated to advancing health through the prevention and control of high blood pressure and its complications.


Video with caption: "VIDEO: Canadian Baby Boomers Reach Dangerous Levels of High Blood Pressure, Warns Hypertension Canada". Video available at:

SOURCE: Hypertension Canada

For further information:

Elissa Freeman for Hypertension Canada


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