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CMAJ. Jun 1, 1992; 146(11): 2021–2029.
PMCID: PMC1490368

Multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors in Canadian adults. Canadian Heart Health Surveys Research Group.


OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence and distribution of the coexistence of major cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors among Canadian adults. DESIGN: Population-based cross-sectional surveys. SETTING: Nine Canadian provinces, from 1986 to 1990. PARTICIPANTS: A probability sample of 26,293 men and women, aged 18 to 74 years, was selected from provincial health insurance registries. For 20,582 of these participants, at least two blood pressure (BP) measurements were taken using a standardized technique. At a subsequent visit to a clinic, two additional BP readings, anthropometric measurements and a blood specimen for plasma lipid analysis were obtained. OUTCOME MEASURES: The percentage distribution of subjects by number of major risk factors (smoking, high BP and elevated blood cholesterol level) and by concomitant factors (body mass index [BMI], ratio of waist to hip circumference [WHR], physical activity, diabetes, awareness of CVD risk factors and education). MAIN RESULTS: Sixty-four percent of men and 63% of women had one or more of the major risk factors. Prevalence increased with age to reach 80% in men and 89% in women aged 65 to 74 years. Prevalence of two or three risk factors was highest among men in the 45-54 age group (34%) and in women in the 65-74 age group (37%). The most common associations were between smoking and high blood cholesterol level (10%) and between high BP and high blood cholesterol level (8%). Prevalence of high BP and elevated blood cholesterol, alone or in combination, increased with BMI and WHR. Smoking, elevated blood cholesterol, BMI and prevalence of one or more risk factors increased with lower level of education. Less than 48% of participants mentioned any single major risk factor as a cause of heart disease. Awareness was lowest in the group with fewest years of education. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study call for an approach to reduce CVD that stresses collaboration of the different health sectors to reach both the population as a whole and the individuals at high risk.

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