Hypertension Facts and Figures

Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and hospitalization in Canada. Elevated blood pressure is related to the development of cardiovascular diseases with cardiovascular mortality doubling with each 20/10 mmHg increase in blood pressure. This is also true for cardiovascular disease morbidity. For example, when compared to blood pressure below 120/80, blood pressure of 130-139/85-89 is associated with a 2.5 times greater risk of cardiovascular diseases in women and 1.6 times greater risk of cardiovascular diseases in men. High blood pressure significantly increases risk for stroke, ischemic heart disease, peripheral vascular disease and heart failure.

  • Hypertension affects more than one in five people; in 2006/07, 22.7% of Canadian adults aged 20 years and older were living with diagnosed hypertension. Since approximately 17% of individuals with hypertension are not aware of their condition, the true prevalence of hypertension is likely higher.
  • Hypertension is the most common reason to visit a doctor; in 2007, 21.1 million visits to community physicians in Canada were made for high blood pressure.
  • Hypertension is the number one reason for taking medication; over 4 million antihypertensive medication prescriptions are written every month; 46% of women and 38% of men aged 60 or over are on drug therapy.
  • The lifetime risk for developing hypertension among adults aged 55 to 65 years with normal blood pressure is 90%.
  • Over $2.3 billion was spent for hypertension on physician, medication and laboratory costs in 2003.
It is estimated that almost 30% of hypertension can be attributed to excess dietary sodium. According to data from the 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey, as many as 90% of men and 65% of women, over the age of 19, exceed the level of sodium at which potential risk of adverse effects increase. Similar high intakes are seen in young children and adolescents: more than 90% of children aged 4-8 and 97% of adolescent boys and more than 80% of adolescent girls exceed the upper limit for sodium. Reduction in daily sodium intake to recommended levels could result in one million fewer Canadians with hypertension.
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