Commonly referred to as “high blood pressure,” hypertension is an increase in pressure inside the arteries. It occurs when these blood vessels shrink or harden, making the heart work harder to keep blood circulating throughout the body.
Hypertension has been dubbed the “silent killer” because it often comes without any signs or symptoms. In fact, many people with hypertension don’t even know they have it.
Many risk factors can lead to hypertension :
- Age and family history
- A diet rich in salt and fat
- Lack of exercise, excess weight and stress
- Smoking and excessive use of alcohol
If you present one or more of these risk factors, you should pay special attention to your blood pressure and talk to a health professional.
Over time, hypertension causes damage to the blood vessels and to many organs. This can lead to health problems. For example, you could develop or suffer:
- A stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
- Retinopathy (a disease of the eyes)
- A heart attack or heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Blood circulation problems in the legs
A single high blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean you suffer from hypertension. Your doctor must measure your blood pressure several times to make sure that the variations are not just due to something else, like temporary stress.
What the numbers mean
Hypertension can be defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg (millimetre of mercury) or diastolic pressure above 90 mmHg. The higher the pressure, the greater the chances of damage.
|What does 140/90 mmHg mean?|
|140 mmHg||90 mmHg|
|Systolic pressure||Diastolic pressure|
|The pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts and pushes blood through your arteries.||The pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting between heartbeats.|
If your doctor tells you that you have hypertension, you will need to start carefully tracking your blood pressure numbers. Your family pharmacist can help you do this. Just ask about the services offered at your local pharmacy. You may also want to purchase your own blood pressure monitor to measure your blood pressure at home.
How to manage hypertension
Managing hypertension starts by making lifestyle changes, which can sometimes be enough to get the problem under control. If these changes don’t help, medication can then be added to the treatment plan.
Examples of lifestyle changes
- Quit smoking.
- Limit your intake of alcohol to two drinks per day.
- Exercise regularly, with a special focus on cardiovascular exercise (e.g. walking, cycling).
- Lower your stress level.
- Eat a healthy diet (low-salt, low-fat, high potassium diet).
- Aim for a healthy weight and a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9. Calculate your BMI here.
Medications to treat hypertension are called antihypertensives. They do not cure hypertension, but they can help you to manage it. There are several categories of antihypertensive agents and each type works differently to lower blood pressure.
It’s important to take your medication every single day. When you don’t feel any symptoms, it can be tempting to skip a pill, but don’t! Always follow the prescribed dose and the instructions given to you by your family pharmacist.
In some cases, many different drugs (sometimes two, three or more) can be needed to get blood pressure back into a normal range. This is perfectly normal. Your family pharmacist can inform you on the effects of each of the medications you are taking.
Remember that there are no miracle cures and that treatment must be tailored to each person. What works for you may not work for another person with high blood pressure.
If you have hypertension, it is extremely important for you to get it under control. If you are having problems reaching the targets set by your health care provider, speak with your family pharmacists. They can help you reach your goals by giving you the right advice and suggesting changes to your drug therapy, if needed.
Many Uniprix-affiliated pharmacies also offer a blood pressure monitoring service and private follow-up consultations. Ask about these services. You might also want to consider buying your own blood pressure monitor to let you closely track your numbers at home.
*Certain conditions must be respected. Fees may apply. Ask a member of the pharmacy team for more information. Pharmacists alone are responsible for the practice of pharmacy. They offer related services only on behalf of pharmacist-owners.