Context: The metabolic syndrome, a concurrence of disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism, overweight and abdominal fat distribution, mild dyslipidemia, and hypertension, is associated with subsequent development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Despite its high prevalence, little is known of the prospective association of the metabolic syndrome with cardiovascular and overall mortality.
Objective: To assess the association of the metabolic syndrome with cardiovascular and overall mortality using recently proposed definitions and factor analysis.
Design, setting, and participants: The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, a population-based, prospective cohort study of 1209 Finnish men aged 42 to 60 years at baseline (1984-1989) who were initially without CVD, cancer, or diabetes. Follow-up continued through December 1998.
Main outcome measures: Death due to coronary heart disease (CHD), CVD, and any cause among men with vs without the metabolic syndrome, using 4 definitions based on the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Results: The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome ranged from 8.8% to 14.3%, depending on the definition. There were 109 deaths during the approximately 11.4-year follow-up, of which 46 and 27 were due to CVD and CHD, respectively. Men with the metabolic syndrome as defined by the NCEP were 2.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2-7.2) to 4.2 (95% CI, 1.6-10.8) times more likely and, as defined by the WHO, 2.9 (95% CI, 1.2-6.8) to 3.3 (95% CI, 1.4-7.7) times more likely to die of CHD after adjustment for conventional cardiovascular risk factors. The metabolic syndrome as defined by the WHO was associated with 2.6 (95% CI, 1.4-5.1) to 3.0 (95% CI, 1.5-5.7) times higher CVD mortality and 1.9 (95% CI, 1.2-3.0) to 2.1 (95% CI, 1.3-3.3) times higher all-cause mortality. The NCEP definition less consistently predicted CVD and all-cause mortality. Factor analysis using 13 variables associated with metabolic or cardiovascular risk yielded a metabolic syndrome factor that explained 18% of total variance. Men with loadings on the metabolic factor in the highest quarter were 3.6 (95% CI, 1.7-7.9), 3.2 (95% CI, 1.7-5.8), and 2.3 (95% CI, 1.5-3.4) times more likely to die of CHD, CVD, and any cause, respectively.
Conclusions: Cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality are increased in men with the metabolic syndrome, even in the absence of baseline CVD and diabetes. Early identification, treatment, and prevention of the metabolic syndrome present a major challenge for health care professionals facing an epidemic of overweight and sedentary lifestyle.