Metabolic Syndrome Skyrocketing
Obesity Is Primary Reason for Surge
WebMD News Archive
March 14, 2006 (Atlanta) -- There's an alarming rise in the number of people
with the constellation of heart-disease risk factors known as the metabolic
syndrome, say Boston researchers.
Despite the improvements seen in some heart disease risk factors, a survey
of nearly 80,000 people showed that rates of the metabolic syndrome continued
to rise both in the United States and in Europe.
The surge is driven mainly by the epidemic of obesity in the Western world,
says researcher Benjamin A. Steinberg, a Sarnoff fellow at Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston."New medical treatments and improved lifestyle
modification strategies are urgently needed to reverse this trend," he
The metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases the risk of heart
disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. By one definition, it requires the
presence of at least three of the following risk factors: obesity, high blood
pressure, high levels of a blood fat called triglycerides, low HDL
"good" cholesterol, and an elevation in fasting blood sugar.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of
The results come from the CardioMonitor Survey, an international annual
polling of about 20,000 people with cardiovascular disease in the U.S. and
The survey estimates that in 1998, 61.4 million American adults were
estimated to have cardiovascular disease or risk factors for coronary heart
disease. That figure rose to 66.7 million in 2001 and to 67.2 million in
During the six-year period, some major gains were made in reducing the
number of people with heart disease risk factors. For example:
- The percentage of people with high triglyceride levels dropped from 46% to
- The number of people with low HDL cholesterol levels decreased from 35% to
- During this time frame the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs
increased from 37% to 52%.
Yet despite these improvements, the rates of the metabolic syndrome rose
from 36% to 44% during the same period.
That means the rise [in the metabolic syndrome] is primarily driven by the
skyrocketing rates of obesity -- from 30% to 48% -- during the six-year period,
says America Heart Association president Robert Eckel, MD, professor of
medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.
"Although several components of the metabolic syndrome are better off,
people are still much more likely to be obese," he tells WebMD. "We
have to continue to target obesity to reverse these trends."
Similar trends were observed in Europe.