Common Syndrome May Boost Heart Risk

Metabolic syndrome with high blood pressure or diabetes may be linked to heart disease risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When the symptoms of metabolic syndrome combine, they can lead to heart disease or even death. But those with diabetes and high blood pressure may face the highest risk.

A new study found that patients with metabolic syndrome may face a greater risk for death from heart disease than those without the syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar (glucose) levels, excess belly fat, obesity and high cholesterol — that occur together and may increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

“The analysis tells us diabetes and high blood pressure are significant factors that elevate the risk of death from [heart] disease among people with metabolic syndrome,” said lead author Eun-Jung Rhee, MD, of Kangbuk Samsung Hospital in Seoul, South Korea, in a press release. “Younger people who have metabolic syndrome should be aware of the risk, particularly those who have diabetes and high blood pressure.”

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), many of the characteristics of metabolic syndrome are modifiable — if a patient has the syndrome, they don't need to have it forever.

Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to prevent metabolic syndrome, according to the NHLBI. One important lifestyle choice maintaining a healthy weight by following a heart healthy diet, trying not to overeat and being physically active. A heart healthy diet may include a variety of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and nuts and seeds. A heart healthy diet may also be low in sodium (salt), added sugars and fats.

Dr. Rhee and team found that patients who had metabolic syndrome were almost twice as likely to die — for any reason — compared with those who didn't have the syndrome. But when high blood pressure and diabetes were not present, patients with metabolic syndrome did not have a much higher risk for death than healthy people.

Jeffrey M. Schussler, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital and the Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, told dailyRx News that this study showed that populations worldwide are affected by high blood pressure and diabetes.

"[The risk factors of diabetes and high blood pressure have] been well established in Western industrialized countries, but [this study shows that there is also] an increased risk in Asian countries," Dr. Schussler said. "It emphasizes the need to prevent (if possible) and aggressively treat (if found) these risk factors."

Dr. Rhee and team looked at 155, 971 Koreans who took part in a health screening program and followed them for nine years or until their death. No participants had a past history of heart disease. At the start of this study, about 12 percent had metabolic syndrome.

For this study, metabolic syndrome was defined as having three abnormal findings — high blood pressure, excess belly fat and high cholesterol, for example.

At the end of this study, 542 participants had died. Dr. Rhee and team found that the participants with metabolic syndrome faced the greatest risk for death — a 160 percent greater risk for death from heart disease than their healthier counterparts.

Dr. Rhee and team also found that women with metabolic syndrome were more likely to die than women without the syndrome, when all causes of death were considered. Men were found not to be at a greater risk for death.

“These results suggest that it is diabetes or [high blood pressure] that largely accounts for the increased [heart disease death] attributed to metabolic syndrome,” Dr. Rhee and team said.

This study was published online May 20 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The Diabetes & Cardiovascular Disease team at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
May 19, 2015
Last Updated:
May 28, 2015