Canada’s baby boomers face ‘dangerous’ levels of high blood pressure: report

TORONTO — Up to half of Canadian baby boomers have high blood pressure or will develop the condition within the next few years, a new national report is warning.

Released Wednesday, the Hypertension Canada study forecasts alarming rates of high blood pressure among baby boomers and its crippling effect on the health care system.

The landmark report provides a detailed look at the state of hypertension across the country.

The report comes just days before Sunday’s World Health Organization’s World Health Day. This year, WHO selected high blood pressure as its theme, identifying the condition’s international impact. Worldwide, 9.4 million people die of high blood pressure each year.

Canada’s largest demographic marred by climbing high blood pressure rates

Baby boomers are Canada’s largest demographic and the unhealthy population is reaching a “dangerous tipping point,” the report notes — right now, 23 per cent of the group is already diagnosed with high blood pressure while another 23 per cent is pre-hypertensive.

The front end of the boomer generation has just entered into seniority in recent years but as the cohort gets older, those with symptoms of the condition are at a high risk of developing it.

“Only the front edge of the baby boom generation has reached age 65, but already one out of every four or approximately 2.2 million boomers, has been diagnosed with hypertension,” Dr. Beth Abramson, cardiologist and Hypertension Canada spokesperson, said.

Read more: 5 lifestyle changes to improve your heart’s health

The report estimates that within four years, over half of those with pre-hypertension will be living with high blood pressure.

By 2031, all baby boomers will have reached the 65-year milestone and the organization predicts that two-thirds will have hypertension or be on course to being diagnosed with it.

Previous years have already followed a similar trajectory: estimates point to 7.3 million Canadians currently suffering from hypertension compared to 5.8 million only five years ago. That’s a 26 per cent increase.

Rates vary depending on age, region

Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest rates of high blood pressure in baby boomers in Canada where 32 per cent of the group reported living with the condition with another 32 per cent on the road to being diagnosed.

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia trailed behind at 27 and 28 per cent.

On the other end of the spectrum was British Columbia where only 20 per cent of boomers had high blood pressure.

Read more: Canadians living longer, but managing heart health needs improvement

The report says this disparity from province to province sheds light on how people are eating, how much they weigh and how much exercise they’re taking up in each region.

Meanwhile, rates of blood pressure rise dramatically with age.

Only 2.5 per cent of those 20 to 34 years old have hypertension, but when you jump to 65 and older that number climbs to 46.8 per cent.

Hurting livelihood and draining the health care system 

High blood pressure takes a toll on patients: it contributes to heart disease, kidney failure and cerebrovascular disease.

Patients could suffer from a heart attack or stroke. Ultimately, hypertension increases a woman’s risk of dying by 34 per cent and a man’s risk by 44 per cent.

The higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk.

Treating the condition is costing the country’s health care system $2.4 billion. Another $166.3 million is spent on lost productivity, the report says.

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