An overview of hypertension

High blood pressure is a condition that may seem harmless at first glance, but taking it seriously is an indicator of better health.

A few basic notions

The heart acts like a pump that circulates blood inside the body. It receives and evacuates blood in your arteries. When your heart contracts, it pumps blood into your arteries. Normally, these vessels are able to take the pressure and control it thanks to their elasticity.

In people with high blood pressure, the arteries shrink and lose their elasticity. When the heart contracts, the blood that’s pumped exerts heavier pressure inside the arteries, thus increasing the arterial blood pressure.

What is normal blood pressure?

Blood pressure is measured two ways, as systolic and diastolic pressures, e.g. written as 120/80 mmHg. Systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading, i.e. 120) measures blood pressure when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the blood vessels. Diastolic pressure (the second number in a blood pressure reading, i.e. 80) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.

The table below can help you interpret your blood pressure measurements. Generally, we can summarize by saying that, the higher your blood pressure, the higher the risks to your health. Ask your doctor what blood pressure measurements you should be aiming for and how to interpret your results.

Are you at risk?

Blood Pressure* Systolic Diastolic Advice
Optimal Less than 120 Less than 80 Perfect!
Normal Less than 130 Less than 85 You should monitor your blood pressure closely.
Normal-high 130 to 139 85 to 89 Your blood pressure could become a problem in the long run. Change your lifestyle and see your doctor once a year.
High blood pressure 140 and higher 90 and higher You must see your doctor to receive appropriate treatment. Your blood pressure level is too high.
* For individuals 18 years and over without concomitant illness. Average measurement over a period that could extend up to six months.

What are the signs of high blood pressure?

Most people who suffer from high blood pressure do not feel any symptoms. Sometimes, they may experience certain symptoms:

  • headaches at the back of the head, especially when waking up
  • mild dizziness
  • shortness of breath after exertion
  • vision problems
  • etc.

CAUTION, high blood pressure is a silent disease. The absence of symptoms does not mean you are in good health or that your blood pressure is under control. Only your pressure readings can tell you where you stand.

How can you prevent or control high blood pressure?

Treatment includes lifestyle changes and taking medication. Develop good habits such as:

  • Limit your intake of salt and fatty foods. Choose fruits, vegetables and sources of fibre.
  • Stop smoking. After only one year of abstinence, your risk of a heart attack is cut in half.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Relax and avoid stress.
  • Exercise.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Take your medication regularly to lower your blood pressure.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly.

How do I check my blood pressure?

  • Don’t smoke 15 to 30 minutes before measuring and don’t consume caffeine one hour prior to measuring it.
  • Rest in a sitting position for at least five minutes before checking your blood pressure.
  • Choose the right size of armband.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair, roll up your sleeve and rest your arm comfortably at heart level.
  • Don’t talk or cross your legs while checking your blood pressure.
  • If you are using a digital monitor, simply turn it on and it will automatically display your blood pressure.
  • When making note of your blood pressure reading in a journal, remember to include the date, time and arm (right or left) you used. Bring your blood pressure booklet with you each time you see the doctor.

The CAUTION HYPERTENSION program is a blood pressure management program. This program, which is only offered at Jean Coutu, is intended for people who have, or are at risk of developing, high blood pressure (such as diabetes sufferers). Owing to an automated device that measures blood pressure (available in-pharmacy), and to the CAUTION HYPERTENSION memory card, you can safely store your blood pressure data on our website. You can then access them at any time, or have a Jean Coutu affiliated pharmacist or your doctor access them.

Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about high blood pressure or the CAUTION HYPERTENSION program.


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An overview of hypertension

High blood pressure is a disease that may seem harmless at first glance. However, if neglected, it can cause damage that could eventually lead to some serious problems to the heart, blood vessels, brain and kidneys, and even lead to death. High blood pressure should be taken seriously to promote better health.