September 25, 2023

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Four Risk Factors Associated with Early Onset of Heart Attacks and Strokes

Four Risk Factors Associated with Early Onset of Heart Attacks and Strokes


Four Risk Factors Associated with Early Onset of Heart Attacks and Strokes

According to a recent study presented at the 2023 European Society of Cardiology Congress, middle-aged individuals exhibiting three or more risk factors such as increased waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and blood sugar levels are at an approximately two-year earlier risk of experiencing heart attacks and strokes compared to those without these risk factors.


Four Risk Factors Associated with Early Onset of Heart Attacks and Strokes


Dr. Lena Lönnberg, the author of the study and a researcher at the Westmanland County Hospital in Westeros City, Sweden, remarked, “Many individuals in their forties and fifties carry some excess weight, slightly elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels but generally feel well and are unaware of the risks, not seeking medical advice.  This condition is known as metabolic syndrome and is an increasingly serious issue in Western populations, where people unknowingly lay the groundwork for future health problems. It presents a significant opportunity for intervention before heart attacks and strokes occur, which could have been preventable.”


It is estimated that up to 31% of the global population has metabolic syndrome. Previous research has shown that individuals with metabolic syndrome have a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and premature death. This study investigated the link between asymptomatic middle-aged individuals with metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease and mortality 30 years later.

The study recruited 34,269 adults aged in their forties and fifties who participated in a cardiovascular disease screening program in Westmanland County, Sweden, between 1990 and 1999. Participants underwent clinical examinations by nurses at primary healthcare centers, including measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol, blood sugar, waist circumference, and hip circumference. They also completed questionnaires regarding lifestyle habits, cardiovascular disease and diabetes history, and socioeconomic factors such as education.

Individuals meeting three or more of the following criteria were classified as having metabolic syndrome: 1) male waist circumference equal to or greater than 102 centimeters, female waist circumference equal to or greater than 88 centimeters; 2) total cholesterol equal to or greater than 6.1 millimoles per liter; 3) systolic blood pressure equal to or greater than 130 millimeters of mercury and/or diastolic blood pressure equal to or greater than 85 millimeters of mercury; 4) fasting plasma glucose equal to or greater than 5.6 millimoles per liter.

Participants with metabolic syndrome were matched in terms of age, gender, and examination date to two control individuals without metabolic syndrome. Data on cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction and stroke) and deaths were collected from national and local registries. The researchers analyzed the relationship between middle-aged metabolic syndrome and non-fatal cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality, adjusting for factors like age, gender, smoking, physical inactivity, education level, body mass index, hip circumference, living alone or with family, among others.

A total of 5,084 individuals (15%) met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, while the control group consisted of 10,168 individuals without metabolic syndrome. Approximately 47% of the participants were female. During a median follow-up period of 27 years, 1,317 (26%) of those with metabolic syndrome died, compared to 1,904 (19%) in the control group, indicating a 30% higher likelihood of death during the follow-up period for individuals with metabolic syndrome.

There were 1,645 cases (32%) of non-fatal cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction and/or stroke) in the metabolic syndrome group and 2,321 cases (22%) in the control group, signifying a 35% higher risk of heart attacks and strokes for the metabolic syndrome group. The median time to the first non-fatal heart attack or stroke was 16.8 years for the metabolic syndrome group and 19.1 years for the control group, a difference of 2.3 years.

Dr. Lönnberg commented, “Metabolic syndrome is a constellation of risk factors, so the level of each factor doesn’t necessarily have to be severely elevated. In fact, most people live with slightly elevated levels for years before symptoms prompt them to seek healthcare. In our study, middle-aged individuals with metabolic syndrome experienced heart attacks or strokes 2.3 years earlier than those without these unhealthy traits. Blood pressure appears to be the most perilous factor, particularly for women in their forties, underscoring the importance of blood pressure control.”

She concluded, “These findings emphasize the importance of early detection of risk factors through health screening programs to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and premature death, even if one feels well. It’s essential to check blood pressure annually, avoid smoking, watch waist circumference, and, last but certainly not least, engage in regular physical activity every day.”

(source:internet, reference only)

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