Guarding against the ‘silent killer’

Nearly half of those with high blood pressure don’t know it

Randy Smith

Randy Smith is accustomed to high-pressure situations, but this one was a life-changer.

As chief financial officer and head of human resources for the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission, Smith arranged for a blood pressure clinic as part of the office’s annual health awareness event last winter.

In the lobby of his office at Dockside Green in Vic West, he sat down next to Caroline Macey-Brown and watched as she wrapped the Velcro band around his bicep, each pump of air constricting his blood flow a little more.

“I could tell by the look on her face something was out of line,” he said.

A series of tests in subsequent weeks revealed Smith suffered from a genetic heart defect, pushing his blood pressure to dangerously high levels.

“I didn’t have a clue. I think I ran 10K the weekend before with my buddies,” he said.

While he’s now on regular medication and under strict doctor’s orders to avoid high-impact exercise, Smith said his experience with the Take the Pressure Down program likely saved his life.

The three-year-old program is a collaboration between Beacon Community Services and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Volunteers set up in malls, rec centres and libraries across Greater Victoria, and use mobile workplace clinics to reach target age groups.

“Our focus is on people aged 30 and above,” said manager Macey-Brown. “Hypertension is called the silent killer, because many people walk around with it and don’t know it.”

About 22 per cent of Canadian adults are affected by high blood pressure, and 40 per cent of those affected show no obvious signs.

Smith said he wanted to share his story in the hopes that more people take a proactive approach and discuss risk factors with their doctor.

“You really have to have those basic health tests done,” he said. “It only takes a few minutes.

It’s important to discuss non-modifiable risks such as genetics and family history with your doctor, and to tackle habits that can be controlled such as diet, stress, alcohol intake and smoking, Macey-Brown said.

“There are many stories like Randy’s. The first step of prevention is to educate people about high blood pressure and do screening, monitoring and heart health education.”

Macey-Brown and Smith hope more businesses take advantage of the free blood pressure clinics in the coming months.

Smith misses his old lifestyle, but said it’s comforting to know he’s now in control of his long-term health.

“It’s not quite the same as chasing a hockey puck around, but it’s better than the alternative.”

To learn more, visit

Get checked out

Take the Pressure Down clinics are being held around Greater Victoria this month, including:

• Tapestry Teachers Conference, Esquimalt High, Friday, Feb. 15

• Crystal Pool, Monday, Feb. 18, 9 a.m. to noon

• Geriatric Health Conference, Victoria Conference Centre, Saturday, Feb. 23

• Cardiac Café, University of Victoria, Feb. 23

• Saanich Employee Health Fair, municipal hall, Wednesday, Feb. 27

A complete schedule is at


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