Metabolic Syndrome Rate Stabilizing Nationally

Prevalence of the cluster of cardiovascular risk factors known as the metabolic syndrome has stopped rising but remains high, researchers found.

The prevalence rose overall from 32.9% in 2003-2004 to 34.7% in 2011-2012, Robert J. Wong, MD, of the Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital Campus in Oakland, Calif., and colleagues found.

But the rate has remained without significant change since 2007-2008 (P=0.14) in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, they reported in a research letter in the May 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“While it is disturbing that we did not see a decrease in the prevalence, it is somewhat reassuring that the prevalence appears to have leveled off since 2007,” American Heart Association president Elliott Antman, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told MedPage Today.

He called for continued public education along with significant changes in the food supply and modification of the built environment.

American College of Cardiology president Kim Williams Sr., MD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, agreed.

“This will become an even more pervasive epidemic unless lifestyle changes — lower calorie, lower fat, more plant-based nutrition, and consistent moderate exercise — are embraced by the American public starting preferably in the young,” he told MedPage Today. “But in this regard, everyone is younger than they will be tomorrow — the time to start is now.”

The researchers called it a “a concerning observation given the aging U.S. population” that older adults had such a high prevalence of metabolic syndrome.

The overall rate across the study period from 2003-2012 was 46.7% among people ages 60 and older compared with 18.3% among 20- to 39-year olds.

The overall prevalence dropped for women during the more recent period, from 39.4% in 2007-2008 to 36.6% in 2011-2012 (P=0.03) in the analysis of the nationally representative data on about 1,300 to 2,100 adults ages 20 and older per 2-year survey period.

The metabolic syndrome was defined as at least three of the components:

  • Waist circumference greater than 102 cm in men or 88 cm in women
  • Serum triglycerides of 150 mg/dL or greater
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40mg/dL in men or 50mg/dL in women
  • Blood pressure of 130/85 mmHg or greater or use of antihypertensive medication
  • Fasting plasma glucose level of 100 mg/dL or greater or use of diabetes medication

“Greater awareness of the metabolic syndrome and its health consequences may have contributed to improvements in optimizing treatment of risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes,” Wong’s group suggested.

Also, “NHANES data demonstrate that obesity prevalence in the U.S. also appears to have stabilized, which also may contribute to the stabilizing prevalence of the metabolic syndrome,” they added.

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