Everyone has passed their pharmacy’s blood pressure kiosk, but there’s good reason to stop and take a seat. With over 15 million Canadians at risk for or living with high blood pressure or hypertension, chances are that you have it, too.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, means there is too much pressure in the body’s blood vessels. Similar to pumping too much air into a tire or balloon, this damaging force can be deadly.

“The challenge is that hypertension has no symptoms,” says Angelique Berg, CEO at Hypertension Canada. “This silent killer is the leading risk factor for diseases like congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease and is also linked to dementia.”

A staggering 7.5 million Canadians today have hypertension, which measures at 140/90 mmHg, and an additional 7.4 million have elevated blood pressure that will advance to hypertension without healthy behaviour changes.

The first thing is to measure your blood pressure, at least annually if you’re otherwise healthy, and more often if your blood pressure is high. Pharmacy kiosks are readily available, and home devices can be purchased for more regular monitoring. A list of recommended home devices is available at hypertension.ca.

If your blood pressure is high, the good news is that control is in your hands.  Incorporating small changes into your daily lifestyle, such as being physically active, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet, limiting alcohol intake, and living smoke-free will have big pay-off in blood pressure control and prevention of disease. For additional help, the GetDownBP.ca online community helps encourages new, healthy habits.

“Knowing your numbers is critical to detecting high blood pressure,” says Berg, “and managing your blood pressure can help us to live longer and healthier.”