Metabolic Syndrome Foretells Diabetes in Elderly

But increased cardiovascular risk less certain, researchers find

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WEDNESDAY, May 21, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Metabolic syndrome increases the risk of diabetes, but not cardiovascular disease, in the elderly, a new British study finds.

People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following five health problems: elevated blood sugar levels; high blood pressure; high waist circumference; decreased levels of "good" HDL cholesterol; and elevated levels of triglycerides (fats) in the blood.

While experts believed all people with metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD), this University of Glasgow study suggests that's not the case in elderly people.

The researchers analyzed data from 4,812 non-diabetic people, aged 70 to 82, who took part in the Prospective Study of Pravastatin in the Elderly at Risk (PROSPER), and data from 2,737 non-diabetic men, aged 60 to 79, who took part in the British Regional Heart Study (BRHS).

In PROSPER, 772 cases of CVD and 287 cases of diabetes occurred in just over three years. Metabolic syndrome was not associated with CVD but was associated with a more than fourfold increased risk of diabetes.

In BRHS, there were 440 cases of CVD and 105 cases of diabetes over seven years. Metabolic syndrome was associated with a modest (27 percent) increased risk of CVD and a more than sevenfold increased risk of diabetes.

Results from both studies showed that body-mass index (BMI) or waist circumference, triglyceride levels and glucose cutoff point weren't associated with CVD risk, but all five metabolic syndrome components were associated with diabetes risk.

"Metabolic syndrome and its components are associated with type 2 diabetes but have weak or no association with vascular risk in elderly populations, suggesting that attempts to define criteria that simultaneously predict risk for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes are unhelpful," the study authors concluded.

Rather than having combined criteria, experts should establish optimum and separate risk factors for each disease, they recommended.

The findings were published online Wednesday by The Lancet and will appear in a future print edition.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about metabolic syndrome.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, May 21, 2008

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