HEART
October 10, 2010

What Hurts the Heart?

Metabolic syndrome can double the risk of heart attack and stroke. The good news is it doesn’t necessarily lead to diabetes.

There’s been increasing evidence that having metabolic syndrome can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease and diabetes. The syndrome includes high blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats), and blood sugar; insulin resistance; and carrying too much weight around the middle. Now, a new study has calculated just how much metabolic syndrome increases the risk to one’s heart.

People with metabolic syndrome were over two times more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and up to 2.4 times more likely to die from it.

The study was an analysis of data from 87 earlier studies and covered almost one million participants. It looked at how many participants had metabolic syndrome and how many developed or died of cardiovascular disease. No one in the study suffered from type 2 diabetes.

The researchers from McGill University, led by Mark Eisenberg, found that having metabolic syndrome increased one’s odds of dying — from any cause — by 50%. Even more, they found that people with metabolic syndrome were over two times more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and up to 2.4 times more likely to die from it. And those with metabolic syndrome were about twice as likely to suffer a stroke or myocardial infarction (heart attack).

The study adds new insight to the field, as the authors point out, since it suggests that metabolic syndrome can increase one’s risk of heart disease without necessarily leading to type 2 diabetes.

Eisenberg and his team write that metabolic syndrome may be used to help clinicians determine who is at greatest risk for heart disease: "We recommend that health care workers use the metabolic syndrome to identify patients who are at particularly high risk for cardiovascular complications. The prevention and reduction of the metabolic syndrome is essential to reduce cardiovascular disease and to extend life in the adult population."

The paper was published in the September 2010 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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