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Dr. Google’s top health questions answered

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Google users ask more than a billion health questions a day. Courtesy Shutterstock

People ask more than a billion health-related questions a day on Google. That makes Dr. Google a go-to source for health information, even if that means users have to wade through a plethora of ill-informed and plain wrong, even dangerous, content.

The Daily Scan is taking the top 10 list of most-Googled health questions to our Providence Health Care experts. Over the next year, we will answer one question each month.

This month’s question: How do I lower blood pressure?
Dr. Nadia Khan, physician at St. Paul’s Hospital and head of Hypertension Canada.

Dr. Nadia Khan, St. Paul’s Hospital physician and president of Hypertension Canada, says high blood pressure, or hypertension, is far more common than people think. And the numbers are growing. One in five adults and one in 50 children have hypertension.

“Elevated blood pressure is the most common cause of death and disability worldwide,” explains Dr. Khan. “It is even a larger contributor to death and disability than smoking or obesity.”

Before we get to the Google question answer, Dr. Khan has four key facts you need to know about hypertension:

  1. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels. Systolic blood pressure is the force when you heart contracts (squeezes). Diastolic pressure is the force when the heart is relaxed. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when that force has become persistently too high.
  2. Ideal blood pressure (BP) is 120/80 mmHG or less. A BP over 140/90 mmHG is considered hypertension.
  3. Hypertension usually has NO symptoms. That’s why it is often called the ‘silent killer’.
  4. Long term risks of hypertension include increased risk of stroke, heart failure, heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, early death and amputation. It can also increase the risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia.

To help lower your blood pressure, Dr. Khan says it’s all about modifying your lifestyle.

* Reduce your salt intake – aim for 2 grams per day.
* Eat a diet rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. Strive for high fiber, lower saturated fat and more plant protein.
* If you are obese or overweight, try to lose some weight.
* Moderate intensity aerobic exercise for 45 minutes most days of the week.
* Reduce alcohol intake – no more than 14 standard drinks per week for men and 9 standard drinks per week for women.
Lifestyle modifications can help lower blood pressure. Courtesy Getty Images.

If necessary, medication can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular death, total death, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease and heart attack.

For more information on hypertension, go to the Heart and Stroke Foundation or Hypertension Canada.

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