Metabolic Syndrome Hurts Heart

Cluster of Common Health Conditions Linked to Heart Failure at Middle Age

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 22, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

May 22, 2006 -- People who have a cluster of common medical conditions may be nearly twice as likely to develop heart failure by middle age.

A new study followed more than 2,300 Swedish men for more than 20 years and found those who had the cluster of common health risk factors, known collectively as metabolic syndrome, were almost twice as likely to develop heart failure by age 70 as those without it.

Researchers say that increased risk was independent of any other established risk factors for heart failure, such as heart disease, a previous heart attack, smoking, and damaged heart valves.

The results of the study were published online today ahead of scheduled print publication in the journal Heart.

Metabolic Syndrome Linked to Heart Failure

Metabolic syndrome is a relatively new term used to describe a cluster of common risk factors occurring at the same time -- including elevated fasting blood sugar levels, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood fats (triglycerides), reduced "good" cholesterol (HDL), and obesity – that have been linked to a variety of health problems, including heart disease. The presence of at least three of these risk factors can qualify for having metabolic syndrome.

In the study, researchers looked at whether metabolic syndrome might also contribute to heart failure in a group of more than 2,300 men who were age 50 between 1970 and 1974 and were followed until age 70. None of the men had any history of heart failure, heart attack, or heart valve disease at the start of the study.

The results showed that men who had metabolic syndrome at the start of the study were 66% more likely to have heart failure by the end of the study.

The relationship between metabolic syndrome and heart failure was even stronger after adjusting for men who had known risk factors for heart failure, such as a heart attack during the study period. Men who had a heart attack and other hear failure risk factors in addition to metabolic syndrome were 80% more likely to have heart failure by age 70.

Researchers say the results suggest that metabolic syndrome may affect the heart directly as well as contribute to the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries.

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SOURCES: Ingelsson, E. Heart, online first edition, May 22, 2006. News release, BMJ Specialist Journals.

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