Pressure rising: High Blood Pressure Rates Still Very High, Particularly for Some Ethnic Groups, Warns Heart and Stroke Foundation

    TORONTO, May 19 /CNW/ - A recent study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation
of Ontario warns that blood pressure rates represent a significant risk to the
general population and are particularly high in key ethnic groups. Results
from a new study, the Ontario Survey on the Prevalence and Control of
Hypertension (ON-BP) were published today in the Canadian Medical Association
Journal (CMAJ).
    The study by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, the University
of Ottawa Heart Institute and Statistics Canada found that in 2006, nearly 
1.5 million or 21% of Ontarians are living with hypertension. Of these, more
than 500,000 Ontarians were suffering from uncontrolled high blood pressure.
    "Approximately 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women aged 20 to 79 were found to
have hypertension, with the rate increasing by age," says Dr. Frans Leenen,
University of Ottawa Heart Institute and the study's principal investigator.
"Among those aged 60 to 79 years, for example, 52% were hypertensive."
    Moreover, the study found the risk is not equally distributed among all
Ontarians: those of South Asian or Black descent are three times more likely
to be hypertensive than the general population and are likely to develop it at
a younger age.
    "Knowing that hypertension rates are on the rise due to an aging and
diverse population is an important wake-up call for all Canadians, including
health care providers," says Dr. Sheldon Tobe, Heart and Stroke Foundation of
Ontario spokesperson. "Hypertension contributes significantly to
cardiovascular and renal disease morbidity, mortality and health care costs.
We must continue working towards not only improved treatment but more
effective prevention."
    The Ontario Survey on the Prevalence and Control of Hypertension (ON-BP),
is the first Canadian population-based study to measure blood pressures and to
determine hypertension rates among some of the most common ethnic groups in
Canada (South Asians, East Asians and Blacks). It is also the first study
since the Canadian Heart Health Survey in the early 1990s to actually measure
blood pressures, rather than relying upon participant's self-reports. The
study involved 2551 Ontarians aged 20 to 79 years in 16 communities, with the
results weighted to reflect the population of Ontario.

    Ethnic diversity

    Although ethnic differences in hypertension rates have been demonstrated
in the United States for some time, ON-BP is the first study to provide clear
evidence concerning ethnic Canadians. In ON-BP, East Asians had the lowest
rate of hypertension (19%) whereas South Asians and Blacks had the highest
(30% and 31%, respectively). They also develop hypertension at a younger age -
nearly 50% of blacks have already developed hypertension in their 40s and 50s.
In comparison, the general population (primarily Caucasians) had a 21%
hypertension rate.
    "For some time the Foundation has been working on strategies to provide
culturally-appropriate heart health information," comments  
Margaret Moy Lum Kwong, Director, High Blood Pressure Strategy, Heart and
Stroke Foundation of Ontario. "These new findings reinforce that we're on the
right track. Something must be done if, as a society, we are to ensure that
all Canadians benefit equally from advances in hypertension prevention,
diagnosis and management. If we stop this unprecedented effort, we cannot
expect these results to continue. The epidemic of uncontrolled hypertension
will only get worse."

    Improvements in treatment and control

    Over the past decade, the Foundation, in partnership with the Ontario
Ministries of Health and Health Promotion, has devoted extensive resources to
public and professional education on hypertension prevention, diagnosis and
management. Initiatives have included online consumer tools such as the Blood
Pressure Action Plan(TM), resources designed to support best practices in
hypertension diagnosis and management for family physicians, nurses, nurse
practitioners, community pharmacists and patients in primary care, and
promotion of the Canadian guidelines on hypertension management. Results from
the ON-BP suggest that these efforts are paying off handsomely. In the early
1990s, only 12% of hypertensives in Ontario were both treated and controlled.
In contrast in 2006, ON-BP found the rate had increased more than five-fold.
The proportion of hypertensives treated and controlled did not differ
significantly by ethnic group, being 66% overall with modest variations across
ethnic groups.
    "This rate of hypertension treatment and control is much higher than that
reported in the United States in 2003/04," says Dr. George Fodor, University
of Ottawa Heart Institute and the study's co-principal investigator, "and we
suspect it may be one of the highest in the world. This is excellent news and
reflects the consistent and significant efforts made in educating and
supporting both healthcare practitioners and patients in pharmacological and
non-pharmacological blood pressure management."

    Still more room for improvement

    At the same time, Dr. Leenen went on to point out it is important to
recognize that a third of hypertensives are not adequately treated and
controlled: 19% of hypertensives are not being treated and another 15% of
hypertensives are treated but not effectively managed. This represents a
significant and important opportunity for improving the health of Canadians
and reducing the health burden of hypertension.
    One challenge that could undermine the progress made to date may be the
obesity epidemic sweeping Canada. Statistics Canada has estimated that 36% of
Canadians aged 18 and over are overweight and an additional 23% are obese.
ON-BP found that compared to someone who has a body mass index (BMI) less than
 25 kg/m(2), those who are overweight (BMI of 25-30 kg/m(2)) have a two-fold
greater risk of hypertension, while those who are obese (BMI greater than 
30 kg/m(2)) have a three-fold risk. These figures suggest that 59% of Canadian
adults are at a weight that increases their risk of hypertension.
    The results of this survey will help the Foundation continue to refine
and expand their public communication and education efforts, focusing on the
diverse communities at risk, including on-line tools. The Heart and Stroke
Foundation of Ontario will also be broadening their efforts around high blood
pressure in the aboriginal communities with a pilot high blood pressure
program in two communities (Whitefish River and Aundeck Omni Kaning).

    About the University of Ottawa Heart Institute

    The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is Canada's largest and foremost
cardiovascular health centre dedicated to understanding, treating and
preventing heart disease. The Heart Institute delivers high-tech care with a
personal touch, shapes the way cardiovascular medicine is practiced, and
revolutionizes cardiac treatment and understanding. The Heart Institute builds
knowledge through research and translates discoveries into advanced care. The
Heart Institute serves the local, national and international community, and is
pioneering a new era in heart health. For more information, visit

    About the Heart & Stroke Foundation

    The Heart and Stroke Foundation (, a
volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke
and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its
application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.
    The Heart&Stroke Blood Pressure Action Plan offers realistic strategies
and on-going support to help individuals prevent and control high blood
pressure. Canadians can get a free, confidential risk assessment and action
plan by going to

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For further information:

For further information: Elissa Freeman, Heart and Stroke Foundation,
Cell: (416) 565-5605; Stacy O'Rourke, Heart and Stroke Foundation, (416)
489-7111 x482

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