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Canadian Health Measures Survey: Selected laboratory and activity monitor data, 2012 and 2013

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Released: 2014-12-16

Unhealthy cholesterol levels were measured or self-reported in over one-third of Canadian adults in 2012 and 2013, according to selected laboratory data from cycle 3 of the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS). Other findings show that one-fifth of Canadian adults were measured or reported having three or more cardiometabolic risk factors (metabolic syndrome), while one-third of Canadians were 'potentially at risk' or 'at risk' of inadequate vitamin D.

Cholesterol levels of adults

The average blood concentration of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) for Canadian adults aged 18 to 79 was 2.78 millimoles per litre (mmol/L) and the average total cholesterol to high density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio (TC:HDL-C) was 3.7 in 2012 and 2013. A blood concentration of less than 3.5 mmol/L is considered healthy for LDL-C and a ratio of less than 5.0 is considered healthy for TC:HDL-C.

Unhealthy cholesterol levels (or dyslipidemia) were measured or self-reported in 38% of Canadian adults aged 18 to 79. The prevalence of dyslipidemia was significantly lower for those aged 18 to 39 compared with those aged 40 to 79. (For more information, see "Cholesterol levels of adults, 2012 to 2013.")

Metabolic syndrome in adults

In 2012 and 2013, one in five Canadian adults aged 18 to 79 were measured or self-reported having three or more cardiometabolic risk factors, also known as 'metabolic syndrome.' However, less than 13% of adults aged 18 to 39 had metabolic syndrome compared with 25% of adults aged 40 to 59 and 39% of adults aged 60 to 79.

Among those with metabolic syndrome, a high waist circumference was the most prevalent risk factor, followed by high triglycerides, low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high fasting blood glucose and high blood pressure.

Nearly two in five Canadian adults had at least two important risk factors associated with the metabolic syndrome, while one-third of Canadian adults aged 18 to 79 had none of the risk factors. (For more information, see "Metabolic syndrome in adults, 2012 to 2013.")

Vitamin D levels of Canadians

In 2012 and 2013, 65% of Canadians aged 3 to 79 had vitamin D levels that were likely sufficient to fulfill the body's requirements for optimal bone health—at or above 50 nanomoles per litre (nmol/L). Of the remaining individuals, 25% were potentially at risk for inadequate vitamin D (between 30 nmol/L and less than 50 nmol/L) and 10% had vitamin D levels below 30 nmol/L, indicating a risk for vitamin D deficiency.

Adults between 20 and 59 years were least likely (61%) and children aged 3 to 5 were most likely (78%) to have sufficient vitamin D levels. Overall, women (69%) were more likely to have sufficient vitamin D than men (62%).

CHMS data show that respondents who self-reported a racial background other than white were significantly more likely to be at risk for inadequate vitamin D (38%) or at risk for vitamin D deficiency (20%) compared with those who identified themselves as white (21% were at risk for inadequacy and 6% were at risk for deficiency).

For children and youth aged 3 to 17, those who were normal weight were significantly more likely to have sufficient vitamin D levels (76%) than those who were overweight (67%) or obese (52%). (For more information, see "Vitamin D levels of Canadians, 2012 to 2013.")

Vitamin C levels of Canadians

The average concentration of vitamin C in blood was 55 micromoles per litre (µmol/L) for Canadians aged 6 to 79 in 2012 and 2013. Overall, males had lower vitamin C concentrations (50 µmol/L) compared with females (61 µmol/L). This was true for all age groups, except for children aged 6 to 11, where there was no significant difference between boys and girls. Children aged 6 to 11 had the highest levels of vitamin C (73 µmol/L).

Based on self-reported smoking status for individuals aged 12 to 79, smokers had lower vitamin C levels compared with non-smokers.

Individuals who were normal weight or underweight had the highest concentration of vitamin C, followed by overweight and obese individuals. (For more information, see "Vitamin C levels of Canadians, 2012 to 2013.")

  Note to readers

The Canadian Health Measures Survey was conducted from January 2012 to December 2013.

This release of laboratory data includes information on cardiovascular and metabolic health (for example, cholesterol, red blood cell fatty acids), chemistry panel (for example, electrolytes (sodium, potassium) and enzymes (aspartate aminotransferase)), complete blood count (for example, hemoglobin, white blood cell count), diabetes (for example, glucose), infectious disease markers (for example, hepatitis) and nutritional status (for example, vitamin C, vitamin D).

The fact sheets "Cholesterol levels of adults, 2012 to 2013," "Metabolic syndrome in adults, 2012 to 2013," "Vitamin D levels of Canadians, 2012 to 2013," and "Vitamin C levels of Canadians, 2012 to 2013" from the publication Health Fact Sheets (Catalogue number82-625-X), are now available from the Browse by Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Weight files and instructions are also available for combining cycle 3 Canadian Health Measures Survey data (where possible) with equivalent data from cycle 1 and/or cycle 2.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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