High Blood Pressure and Heart Health

Many doctors comment that their patients have hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. So, what does this mean exactly? Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure or force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels (arteries). Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood that your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. When your blood pressure is high, it means that your heart is pumping more blood than your arteries can handle, often due to plaque build up. According to Dr. Andrew Affleck, Board member of Northern Hearts, high blood pressure is a common finding in the Emergency Department and having a blood pressure reading that is consistently high is the number one risk for heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.

Your blood pressure reading is based on two measures. The top number (systolic) is the measure of the pressure when your heart contracts and pushes blood through the arteries. The bottom number (diastolic) is the measure of pressure when the heart relaxes between beats. There are several guidelines for defining high blood pressure. According to Heart and Stroke Canada there are three categories of risk for high blood pressure: low risk 120/80, medium risk 121-134/80-84 and high risk 135+/85+.

If you are unsure about your blood pressure or would like to keep better track of it, there are many user-friendly handheld devices that can track it for you. You can find blood pressure cuffs at your local pharmacy. As your blood pressure can change throughout the day depending on your activity or stress levels, it is recommended to take it every day or every second day if you have any concerns about it, or weekly if there is no real concern. These readings can be brought to your health care provider and they will be able to see if you need treatment. If you are concerned about your blood pressure or have readings that are higher than your normal, it is recommended to see a medical professional. An example of how to take your blood pressure can be found at this link from Heart and Stroke: https://youtu.be/smGieMJm9c8

People always ask how they can prevent or manage hypertension and the one main factor is attributed to lifestyle changes. This includes getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), not smoking, avoiding alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, and managing stress that is within your control. If the hypertension diagnosis persists, medication is often prescribed to bring it down to normal levels.

Having a diet low in sodium can also help lower blood pressure levels. For example, sauces and dips often have hidden amounts of salt and sugars, leading causes of hypertension. However, there are healthier alternatives. Dr. Christopher Lai, a local cardiologist, created a cookbook in the early years of creating the Northern Hearts organization and would like to share one of the recipes for you to try this week!

Healthy Hearts BBQ Sauce.

Recipe – Makes 1 1/3 cups

  • V8 juice or tomato juice: 1 cup
  • Vinegar: 1/3 cup
  • Cornstarch: 2 tbsp
  • Worcestershire Sauce: 1 tsp
  • Garlic Powder: ¼ tsp
  • Chili Powder ¼ tsp

Cook over medium heat until thickened and then cook 3 to 5 minutes to blend flavours.

Nutrition Analysis:

  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Total Calories: 6
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrate: 1 gram

If you don’t manage your high blood pressure, you could be at risk of serious illness including heart attack and stroke.

For more information related to heart health, please visit  https://northernhearts.org/ or follow Northern Hearts on Facebook and Instagram (@NorthernHeartsThunderBay), where a new posting occurs every Friday on all things heart health.

For more information on hypertension, visit https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/about.htm#:~:text=High%20blood%20pressure%2C%20also%20called,blood%20pressure%20(or%20hypertension) and https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/symptoms-causes/syc-20373410

Prepared by: Kayla Waddington, Program Coordinator, Northern Hearts

Contributions by Dr. Andrew Affleck and Dr. Chris Lai