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Study reveals surprising number of Canadians with urgently high blood pressure

A Canadian hypertension awareness campaign revealed that half of people tested required treatment for high blood pressure, including a group whose blood pressure levels were at emergency levels.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba and St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre in Winnipeg set up mobile clinics at community centre, shopping malls, workplaces and hospitals, offering blood pressure testing. Participation in testing was entirely voluntary. The goals were to promote awareness of hypertension (high blood pressure), estimate the prevalence of high blood pressure in a Canadian city, and find out why people with hypertension don’t stick to treatment.

The clinics tested 1,097 people, ranging in age from 16 to 92, with almost equal numbers of men and women.

Half of the people tested required medical attention for their blood pressure.

Nineteen per cent had high blood pressure that was undiagnosed and untreated, and another 29 per cent had uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Most alarmingly, two per cent – or 22 people – had blood pressure levels that warranted urgent or emergency treatment. Almost one-third of this group was under age 40, and one-quarter of this group dismissed their test result and were unwilling to accept advice about it.

Of the 22 people with emergency-level hypertension, four had not been prescribed blood pressure medication. Another four had a prescription for blood pressure medication that they took regularly. However, the other 14 had been prescribed medication but did not take it regularly. Reasons for not taking their medication included side effects, forgetting to refill the presription, feeling fine when off medication, dismissing health repercussions of high blood pressure, and trying to control their blood pressure by other means, such as lifestyle measures.

These results highlight the need for better public awareness of the health risks associated with high blood pressure, and for increased opportunities to identify people with hypertension.

The study was led by Dr. Grant Pierce or St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, and was published in the American Journal of Hypertension on Jan. 5, 2017.

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  • Women's College Hospital