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More than one-quarter of Canadian adults are projected to have high blood pressure by 2012/13

Nov. 24, 2011

By Maria Serraino

In Canada, death caused by cardiovascular disease has decreased, partly due to increased awareness, diagnosis and better control of blood pressure. However, high blood pressure rates still remain high. According to a recent study in CMAJ, researchers estimate that more than one-quarter of Canadian adults will be diagnosed with high blood pressure by 2012/13. The study found that older women were more likely to be diagnosed than men, and that people in the Atlantic provinces had the highest rates.

According to background information, high blood pressure is the leading risk factor for death and for reduced quality of life, accounting for 13 per cent of deaths worldwide. It can lead to increased risk of stroke, dementia, heart and kidney failure and other chronic diseases.

Researchers looked at data on 26 million adults in Canada aged 20 years and older between 1998/99 and 2007/08 to determine the frequency of high blood pressure in the population (prevalence) and the number of new cases (incidence). They compared the number of deaths among people with and without diagnosed high blood pressure.

The data showed that in 2007/08, about six million Canadian adults (23 per cent) were living with diagnosed high blood pressure and slightly more women (24.3 per cent) than men (21.7 per cent) had developed the condition. Between 1998/99 and 2007/08, high blood pressure rates increased by 7.1 per cent, and by 2007/08, there were about 418,000 newly diagnosed cases.

The study found the prevalence of high blood pressure increased with age, as did the incidence. Rates were consistent among women and men under the age of 60, but from age 60 onwards, women started to show a higher rate of prevalence (43.6 per cent, versus men at 43 per cent). At age 75 and older, the incidence rate was also higher among women (8.6 per cent in women) compared to men (8.2 per cent).

Across Canada, prevalence rates were highest in the Atlantic region (23.3 per cent) compared to the territories and western Canada (19 per cent). A similar pattern was found for newly diagnosed cases. 

The study found that adults diagnosed with high blood pressure were two to four times more likely to die than those who were not diagnosed.

If the incidence and death rates remain constant, the researchers predict that by 2012/13 about 26.5 per cent, or roughly 7.4 million, Canadians adults will be living with diagnosed high blood pressure.

The researchers note the increased level of high blood pressure cases could be attributed to the possibility that a greater number of people are being screened and made aware of their condition, along with the fact that today, Canadians diagnosed with high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases are living longer lives than they ever have in the past.

According to the researchers, the study indicates that increased preventive measures are warranted to see a continued decrease in new cases in the short-term and a decrease in the total prevalence in  cases in the long-term.

The study highlights the need for programs and initiatives that will improve the lifestyles of Canadians, including reducing sodium consumption levels. The researchers also argue the need to continue tracking high blood pressure rates in Canada to enable proper surveillance information to enhance prevention and management programs. 

The study appears in the Nov. 21 issue of CMAJ.


Read more on blood pressure:

Blood pressure basics

High blood pressure risks in post-menopausal women

Most cardiovascular risks factors are manageable

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital