WEDNESDAY, May 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The cluster of heart risk factors known as the "metabolic syndrome" might raise the risk of heart disease more for black women than it does for white women, a new study suggests.
Metabolic syndrome refers to having at least three health conditions -- including a large waist size, high blood pressure, low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, high levels of blood fats called triglycerides, and impaired sugar metabolism -- that can all work together to boost the odds of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
In the new study, a team led by Dr. Michelle Schmiegelow at University Hospital Gentofte in Denmark looked at data from more than 14,000 American women, aged 50 to 79. All were taking part in a long-term national study. About 47 percent were white, 36 percent were black and 18 percent were Hispanic.
Over 13 years of follow-up, about 1,100 of the women were diagnosed with heart disease or had suffered a stroke for the first time.
Among black women with two or three of the metabolic syndrome risk factors, the risk of heart disease was 77 percent higher for overweight women and 117 percent higher for obese women, compared with normal-weight women, the investigators found.
That wasn't true for white women with two to three of the risk factors, however. Even when they were overweight or obese, white women with the risk factors did not have a higher risk of heart disease compared to normal-weight women, the researchers said.
Among black women without the metabolic syndrome, the risk of heart disease was slightly higher for those who were overweight, and nearly two times higher for those who were obese, compared to normal-weight women.
But again, among white women without metabolic syndrome, those who were overweight and obese did not have any higher risk of heart disease than those with normal weight, the study found.
The study was published May 20 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The bottom line: "The cardiovascular disease risk was elevated in black women by the presence of only two or three metabolic abnormalities, to a degree that would require four or more metabolic abnormalities among white women," Schmiegelow, a research fellow in the cardiology department at the Danish hospital, said in a journal news release.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about metabolic syndrome.