‘CKM Syndrome’ Gives New Name to Multi-System Heart Disease Risk

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Oct. 10, 2023 – A newly named condition gives people a way to refer to  being affected by obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease at the same time. 

Called cardiovascular-kidney-metabolic syndrome, or CKM, the new term is intended as a diagnosis that signals people are at high risk of dying from heart disease, the American Heart Association announced Monday. The detailed recommendation was published in the journal Circulation.

One-third of all U.S. adults have at least three risk factors for heart disease, metabolic disorders like diabetes, or kidney disease. The new diagnosis of CKM would be based on combined risk factors like problems with weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and kidney function.

Here are the four stages of CKM syndrome:

  • Stage 0 has no risk factors, and people at this stage should be screened every 3 to 5 years to check their blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Maintaining a healthy weight is a priority for people in stage 0.
  • Stage 1 includes people who have risk factors that include body fat and weight problems or prediabetes. People in stage 1 should make healthy lifestyle changes and try to lose 5% of their body weight.
  • Stage 2 includes people who have type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, and those who have kidney disease. The goal for people in stage 2 is to prevent to diseases of their heart and blood vessels or kidney failure. Medications targeting kidney function or those that help with blood sugar and weight loss, like Ozempic, could be considered in this stage.
  • Stage 3 is considered early cardiovascular disease without symptoms and includes people with signs of disease in their arteries or problems with heart function. Further medication management may be needed at this stage.
  • Stage 4 includes people who may have already had a stroke or heart attack, or have kidney failure or heart failure.

The goal of providing the stages is to give a framework for people to work toward “CKM syndrome regression,” which means moving to a lower stage. That can include improving glucose control, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, weight, kidney function, and heart dysfunction.

The new term “addresses the connections among these conditions with a particular focus on identifying people at early stages of CKM syndrome,” Chiadi E. Ndumele, MD, PhD, lead author of the advisory and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, said in a statement. “Screening for kidney and metabolic disease will help us start protective therapies earlier to most effectively prevent heart disease and best manage existing heart disease.”