SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

SOURCE: O'Brien Institute for Public Health

O'Brien Institute for Public Health

August 12, 2015 12:30 ET

The cost of high blood pressure in Alberta and Canada

10 per cent of Alberta health-care cost associated with hypertension

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - August 12, 2015) - Approximately 21 per cent of adults in Alberta had diagnosed hypertension or high blood pressure in 2010, and an estimated nine in 10 people who live an average life span will develop the condition in their lifetime.

New research out of the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine, published in the September issue of the journal Hypertension evaluated the economic impact of hypertension in Alberta. Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke -- common, deadly, and costly diseases. Researchers hope that this information will be used as a driving force to implement policies aimed at improving treatment and prevention of hypertension.

High blood pressure is the leading risk for death and disability globally, and reducing uncontrolled hypertension is one of nine United Nations targets to reduce non-communicable disease.

The study estimated that in 2010 Alberta spent $1.4-billion on treating high blood pressure and its consequences, about 10 per cent of the annual health budget. The team estimated the cost to treat high blood pressure across Canada during the same year was approximately $13.9-billion, accounting for 10.2 per cent of direct health-care spending.

"We project that the health-care costs in Canada due to high blood pressure will rise to over $20 billion by 2020," says lead investigator Dr. Kerry A. McBrien, a family physician and assistant professor in the departments of family medicine and community health sciences at the University of Calgary. "This increase is because of an aging and growing population, inflation in health-care costs and projected increases in the number of people with high blood pressure."

Using Alberta health-care data which included hospital stays, emergency room visits and regular doctor's visits, from 2002 through to 2010, the research team calculated the annual health-care cost for every adult resident. They then identified those who had been diagnosed with high blood pressure and calculated, on average, how much more their health-care costs were, in comparison to those without high blood pressure, taking into account other factors such as age and other diseases that could impact health-care costs.

"These costs are important given that key health policies to prevent and control hypertension can dramatically reduce the impact of hypertension on death, disability and health-care costs," says first author on the study Colin Weaver, a research associate the University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine.

Some examples of interventions proven to reduce the impact of hypertension include: policies to reduce dietary salt, policies to make eating fresh fruit and vegetables more affordable and accessible, weight loss and exercise programs and utilizing blood pressure lowering medications.

"The current focus of many health systems is on treating hypertension directly, and while treatments are effective in reducing morbidity and mortality, they are also costly," says McBrien who is also a member of the university's O'Brien Institute for Public Health. "Focusing efforts on primary prevention or treatment may have a significant impact on costs in the long term."

This study was supported by Alberta Innovates Health Solutions -- Collaborative Research Innovation Opportunites Team Grants Program.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as "I will lift up my eyes."

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About the Cumming School of Medicine
The University of Calgary's Cumming School of Medicine is a leader in health research, with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research and education. We train the next generation of health practitioners, and take new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory to the patient, always keeping in mind our goal: Creating the Future of Health.

The medical school was created in 1967 and on June 17, 2014, was formally named the Cumming School of Medicine in recognition of Geoffrey Cumming's generous gift to the university.

For more information, visit, or follow us on Twitter @UCalgaryMed.

About the O'Brien Institute for Public Health
With more than 400 members, the University of Calgary's O'Brien Institute for Public Health is a virtual, interdisciplinary network integrating research groups, academics, health professionals, community leaders, and policy makers across the health continuum to catalyze excellence in population health and health services research. Together, O'Brien Institute members strive to produce new knowledge and evidence to inform, and help shape, public health agencies and health systems for the benefit of local, national and global communities -- achieving the institute's vision of Better Health and Health Care.

Contact Information

  • Media Contact
    Marta Cyperling
    Media Relations Manager
    Cumming School of Medicine
    University of Calgary