Background: Metabolic syndrome refers to a constellation of conditions that increases a person's risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. We describe the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its components in relation to sociodemographic factors in the Canadian adult population.
Methods: We used data from cycle 1 of the Canadian Health Measures Survey, a cross-sectional survey of a representative sample of the population. We included data for respondents aged 18 years and older for whom fasting blood samples were available; pregnant women were excluded. We calculated weighted estimates of the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its components in relation to age, sex, education level and income.
Results: The estimated prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 19.1%. Age was the strongest predictor of the syndrome: 17.0% of participants 18-39 years old had metabolic syndrome, as compared with 39.0% of those 70-79 years. Abdominal obesity was the most common component of the syndrome (35.0%) and was more prevalent among women than among men (40.0% v. 29.1%; p=0.013). Men were more likely than women to have an elevated fasting glucose level (18.9% v. 13.6%; p=0.025) and hypertriglyceridemia (29.0% v. 20.0%; p=0.012). The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was higher among people in households with lower education and income levels.
Interpretation: About one in five Canadian adults had metabolic syndrome. People at increased risk were those in households with lower education and income levels. The burden of abdominal obesity, low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and hypertriglyceridemia among young people was especially of concern, because the risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age.