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Prevention of Hypertension in Ontario

Nayab Ahmad
World Hypertension Day is on May 17; it is dedicated to promoting awareness on hypertension. Although deemed the silent killer, the majority of us know of someone who has been affected or is suffering from heart disease. Hypertension is a leading risk factor for heart disease and is commonly referred to as high blood pressure. Over 7.5 million Canadians live with hypertension among which 1.5 million are Ontarians. What's alarming is that the prevalence of hypertension among Canadians seems to be increasing on a yearly basis. A study conducted by the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Ontario found that in 2006, approximately 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women aged between 20 to 79 suffered from hypertension. The prevalence of hypertension was found to increase with age making old age a risk factor.

hypertension Hypertension also seems to be more prevalent among certain ethnic groups over others. In Ontario, higher rates of hypertension have been noted in East Asian, South Asian, and black communities as compared to the general population. Furthermore, East Asians, South Asians, and blacks tend to develop high blood pressure at a much younger age, in their 40s and 50s, as compared to in their 60s and 70s which is prominent amongst the general population.

Along with age and ethnicity, hypertension has a strong link to one's physical health. Obese and overweight individuals are most at risk of developing hypertension. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation over 36% of Canadians over the age of 18 are overweight and approximately 23% are obese. Overweight individuals are twice as likely to develop hypertension whereas obese individuals are three times as likely to develop hypertension. Thus, weight is a huge risk factor in developing hypertension.

cause-hypertension With regards to prevention, age and ethnicity are factors that are out of one's control. However, the risk of developing hypertension can be reduced significantly by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and improving physical health. Risk factors pertaining to physical health include eating less than 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, smoking, physical inactivity, and stress. Approximately 9 out of 10 Ontarians have at least one of the aforementioned risk factors. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle would mean maintaining healthy behaviours which would include physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking. These healthy behaviours are related to a staggering 88% reduction in the risk of developing hypertension which would in turn reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Physical activity alone can add up to 2 years to one's life. The risk of hypertension is reduced by 30% when participating in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week. For example, walking is a great example of physical activity that can be done by those of all ages and without a gym. Furthermore, implementing said healthy behaviours into the lives of children and youth early on would mean reducing the risk of hypertension and heart disease in the future of these generations.

The Heart & Stroke Foundation offers the Hypertension Management Program (HMP). The HMP is a province wide chronic disease management program focused on providing Ontario healthcare providers and patients with support in managing hypertension. The HMP provides professional education, practice support, and tool kits which aid healthcare providers to better detect, manage, and treat hypertension. Providers of the HMP program also offer counselling tips for patients looking to make lifestyle changes and work to set goals and track patient progress. HMP primary care sites are spread out throughout the province of Ontario. For those residing in the Hamilton area, there is the Grimsby Medical Associates - HMP Primary Care Site located at 155 Main Street East. For more information regarding the HMP program as well as site locations, patients should visit the Ontario Stroke Network website.
Nayab Ahmad May 17, 2016

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