Metabolic Syndrome — A Cardiac Crystal Ball?

Metabolic syndrome severity scores in childhood may predict adult cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Anyssa Garza, PharmD

(RxWiki News) A new test may be able to predict whether a child is at risk of heart disease — long before he or she ever develops it.

Two recent studies found that metabolic syndrome severity scores in childhood may be a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes risk later in life. This finding could potentially help doctors identify at-risk children and lead to treatments aimed at reducing these risks.

"We are hopeful that this score can be used to assess the baseline risk for adolescents regarding metabolic syndrome and their risk for future disease and use it as a motivator for individuals to try to change their risk so that they may have a healthier diet, engage in more physical activity or get medication to reduce their metabolic syndrome severity and their future risk for disease," said lead study author Mark DeBoer, MD, of UVA’s Department of Pediatrics, in a press release.

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group risk factors that together can increase the risk of CVD, diabetes and stroke. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol and excessive body fat around the middle. When a patient presents with these risk factors together, their risk is greater than with any one factor alone.

According to the American Heart Association, about 34 percent of US adults have metabolic syndrome.

But there's some good news. Patients can significantly reduce their risk for CVD by managing weight, increasing physical activity, eating a heart-healthy diet, not smoking and working with a doctor to manage blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

For these studies, Dr. DeBoer and team developed scoring criteria that rely on an evaluation of metabolic syndrome. This scoring system helps to account for factors specific to both race and gender.

To create this scoring criteria, Dr. DeBoer and team looked at metabolic syndrome severity scores from children in the 1970s. These children were followed up with as recently as 2014, at an average age of 49.

A strong link was found between the metabolic syndrome severity scores of these children and their later development of CVD and type 2 diabetes.

According to Dr. DeBoer and team, this test is innovative because it's able to assess changes in metabolic syndrome severity in a patient over time and creates a specific risk prediction number.

The first study was published Sept. 17 in the journal Diabetologia. The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

The second study was published Aug. 11 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 14, 2015
Last Updated:
October 15, 2015