Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome

Having “Metabolic Syndrome” is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attack, and sudden cardiac death. Many people are unaware that they have this disease and that is damaging their heart and blood vessels. The approximate prevalence of this syndrome in patients with coronary artery disease is 50%, with a prevalence of 37% in patients with premature coronary artery disease (age 45), particularly in women. You may or may not have heard of this disease, but odds are you will, and may already have it, or know someone dealing with its adverse health effects. In fact, studies have shown that from 2003-2004 to 2011-2012, the overall prevalence of the metabolic syndrome increased from 32.9 percent to 34.7 percent. Perhaps even more troubling, according to the American Heart Association, more than 9% of U.S. youth aged 12–19, nearly three million people, have the metabolic syndrome. Among overweight and obese adolescents, this prevalence rate rises to 44%. The good news is that there are Preventive Cardiologists such as Preventive Cardiology of New York, who specialize in the early identification, treatment, and prevention of metabolic syndrome, and its manifestations

So, what is “Metabolic Syndrome” (METs)? While exact clinical definitions differ slightly depending on which scientific society you follow, it generally refers to a combination of manifestations that travel together: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar (Type II diabetes, insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes), excess body fat around the waist (“visceral” body fat that accumulates around the organs), and abnormal cholesterol patterns and triglyceride levels. Many components of METs are linked with a sedentary lifestyle, including increased obesity, reduced HDL cholesterol, and a trend toward increased triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Compared with individuals who watched television or used their computers for less than one hour daily, those who carried out these behaviors for greater than four hours daily have twice the risk of developing METs. Certain genetic factors also play a role.

Diagnosing METs

How specifically is METs diagnosed by your physician? A person who has three or more of the following abnormalities can be considered to have the syndrome and be at increased risk of cardiovascular disease:

  • Abdominal obesity (Waist circumference of 40 inches or above in men, and 35 inches or above in women).
  • Triglyceride level of 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or greater.
  • HDL cholesterol of less than 40 mg/dL in men or less than 50 mg/dL in women.
  • Systolic blood pressure (top number) of 130 mm Hg or greater, or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) of 85 mm Hg or greater.
  • Fasting glucose (blood sugar) of 100 mg/dL or greater.

A proinflammatory state, identified clinically by elevations of C-reactive protein (CRP) among other specific emerging markers, is commonly present in persons with METs.

Reducing Your Risk of METs

Although METs is a serious condition, you can reduce your cardiovascular risks significantly by reducing your weight, increasing your physical activity, eating a heart-healthy diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and fish, and working with your doctor and nutritionist to monitor and manage blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure. When changes in lifestyle alone do not control the risk factors related to metabolic syndrome, your health physician may prescribe medications to help control blood pressure, cholesterol, and other symptoms. Carefully following your practitioner’s instructions can help prevent many of the long term adverse effects of METs.

Be Proactive

If you suspect that you may have METs or any of its components, you should schedule an evaluation to confirm the diagnosis. You should also undergo a thorough Preventive and PROACTIVE cardiovascular examination that is designed to detect cardiovascular risk and disease at its earliest stages, when it is easiest, less invasive, and less costly to treat. Cardiovascular disease develops over years to decades and can be silently progressing, doing its damage without any symptoms, for a long period of time before becoming clinically evident. At that time, a window of treatment opportunity has been missed.

At some of the more advance and PROACTIVE centers, preventive testing is capable of identifying cardiovascular disease and health risk often one to two decades before it becomes symptomatic, with testing that is state-of-the-art, accurate, generally non-invasive, and highly personalized. This can provide you and your physician with the opportunity to intervene at the earliest possible time to avert an adverse outcome.


Lee S. Marcus, MD, MS, FACC

President- Preventive Cardiology of New York