Objectives: Metabolic factors such as obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia and hyperglycemia have consistently been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There is also growing evidence that these factors are linked to cancer incidence and mortality. The aim of this study was to investigate long-term trends in major metabolic risk factors in three large cohorts.
Materials and methods: Data from 239,602 individuals aged 25-64 years participating in health examinations between 1976 and 2005 were used to estimate prevalence and trends in five risk factors.
Results: Irrespective of geographic location, individual metabolic risk factors showed divergent trends across the observation period. Whereas obesity and hyperglycemia in men increased by a per decade ratio of 1.54 (95% CI: 1.42-1.66) and 1.62 (95% CI: 1.49-1.76), respectively, and in women by 1.48 (95% CI: 1.41-1.56) and 1.66 (95% CI: 1.57-1.75), hypertension decreased by 0.71 (95% CI: 0.68-0.74) in men and 0.83 (95% CI: 0.79-0.86) in women. Dyslipidemia increased from the 1970s to the 1980s but declined in the succeeding decade. A combination of three or more of these risk factors increased significantly in men by a ratio of 1.15 (95% CI: 1.08-1.22) per decade and in women by 1.20 (95% CI: 1.15-1.27).
Conclusion: The study shows that individual metabolic risk factors followed divergent trends over the period of three decades even though the combination of three or more risk factors used as a proxy for the metabolic syndrome appeared to be stable over the last two of the decades. The two key components of the syndrome, namely BMI and glucose levels, increased significantly and deserve professional attention.