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Health Reports: Blood pressure, hypertension and leading risk factors

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Released: 2019-02-20

Hypertension is the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is the leading risk factor for death worldwide. New research shows that nearly one-quarter of Canadian men (24%) and women (23%) have hypertension, and that 84% of people with hypertension are aware of it. Furthermore, being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, or having a diet low in fruits and vegetables significantly increases the risk of developing hypertension.

These are some of the findings from two new studies released today in Health Reports. The first examines systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and hypertension prevalence, awareness and control among Canadian adults, while the second quantifies the major risk factors for hypertension.

According to the first study, hypertension prevalence among adults aged 20 to 79 remained stable from 2007-2009 to 2014-2015, and rates of hypertension awareness, treatment and control have remained high. Hypertension rates were similar for men and women, and increased with age. Hypertension prevalence was 3% for men and women aged 20 to 39, and 71% for men and 69% for women aged 70 to 79. About 65% of those aged 20 to 39 with hypertension were aware of it, compared with 90% of people aged 70 to 79. Similarly, treatment and control of hypertension was greater among older age groups. More than 85% of those aged 60 to 79 reported being treated for hypertension compared with 55% of those aged 20 to 39, and more than 70% of 60- to 79-year-olds reported having their hypertension controlled compared with 51% of 20- to 39-year-olds.

The second study found that being overweight or obese was the leading modifiable risk factor, increasing the risk of developing hypertension by 45% for men and 57% for women. Being less physically active increased the risk by 19% for men and 26% for women, while eating fruits and vegetables fewer than five times daily increased the risk by 18% and 15%, respectively. Having diabetes was the strongest predictor overall of developing hypertension as it increased the risk by 68% for men and 125% for women. Having chronic kidney disease was also a risk factor for women. This study also found that when risk factors were summed into a score—where each factor represented one point—the probability of developing hypertension increased significantly with each added risk factor.

For a visual summary of this work, see the infographic "Hypertension: Prevalence and leading risk factors," which is part of Statistics Canada — Infographics (Catalogue number11-627-M).

  Note to readers

The data are from four cycles of the Canadian Health Measures Survey: the first (2007 to 2009), second (2009 to 2011), third (2012 to 2013) and fourth (2014 to 2015).

Systolic and diastolic blood pressure (SBP and DBP) were measured with the BpTRU™ BPM-300 device (BpTRU Medical Devices Ltd., Coquitlam, British Columbia).

Respondents were considered hypertensive if their mean SBP was 140 mm Hg or higher, if their mean DBP was 90 mm Hg or higher, or if they reported past-month use of antihypertensive medication. Hypertensive respondents were considered treated if they reported past-month use of antihypertensive medication, and considered controlled if they reported past-month use of antihypertensive medication and had mean SBP lower than 140 mm Hg and mean DBP lower than 90 mm Hg.


"Blood pressure and hypertension" and "Risk factors for hypertension in Canada" are now available in the February 2019 online issue of Health Reports, Vol. 30, no. 2 (Catalogue number82-003-X).

Contact information

To enquire about "Blood pressure and hypertension," contact Jason DeGuire (, Health Statistics Division.

To enquire about "Risk factors for hypertension in Canada," contact Alexander A. Leung (, Departments of Medicine and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary.

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300;

For more information about Health Reports, contact Janice Felman (613-799-7746;, Health Analysis Division.

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