People are more at risk of having a heart attack or stroke if they have three or more unhealthy traits, latest research reveals.

A new study from the European Society of Cardiology has found that middle-aged adults are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke if they have three or more of the following complications – high blood glucose levels, high blood pressure, a high waist circumference or high cholesterol.

Top author Dr Lena Lönnberg said: “Many people in their 40s and 50s have a bit of fat around the middle and marginally elevated blood pressure, cholesterol or glucose but feel generally well, are unaware of the risks and do not seek medical advice.

“This scenario, called metabolic syndrome, is a growing problem in Western populations where people are unknowingly storing up problems for later in life.”

She added: “This is a huge, missed opportunity to intervene before heart attacks and strokes that could have been avoided occur.”

Presented at the ESC Congress 2023, the research has reported that more than 30% of the population around the world has metabolic syndrome.

Prior findings have revealed a link between metabolic syndrome and strokes, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and early death.

During this study, the team of researchers analysed the health of 34,269 people, all of whom were aged between 40 and 59.

Each participant also filled in surveys about their lifestyles and whether or not they have previously had heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

Participants were diagnosed with metabolic syndrome if they had three or more of the following:

  • 130 mmHg or higher systolic blood pressure and/or 85 mm Hg or higher diastolic blood pressure
  • Fasting plasma glucose of 5.6 mmol/l or higher
  • Total cholesterol of 6.1 mmol/l or above
  • A waist circumference of 102 cm or above for men and 88 cm or above for women.

More than 5,000 of the participants had metabolic syndrome. They were then compared with a control group of 10,168 individuals without metabolic syndrome.

Over a 27-year period, 26% of the adults with metabolic syndrome died, while only 19% of those in the control group passed away.

This highlights that those with metabolic syndrome were 30% more at risk of dying compared to those without three or more health complications.

Dr Lönnberg said: “As metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors, the level of each individual component does not have to be severely raised.

“In fact, most people live with slightly raised levels for many years before having symptoms that lead them to seek health care.

“In our study, middle-aged adults with metabolic syndrome had a heart attack or stroke 2.3 years earlier than those without the collection of unhealthy traits.”

She added: “Blood pressure was the riskiest component, particularly for women in their 40s, highlighting the value of keeping it under control.

“The results underline the importance of early detection of risk factors through health screening programmes so that preventive actions can be taken to prevent heart attack, stroke and premature death.”

She concluded: “As a general rule of thumb, even if you feel well, check your blood pressure every year, avoid smoking, keep an eye on your waist circumference and last, but definitely not least, be physically active every day.”

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Public Health England considers low carb approach for type 2 diabetes

The low carb approach is being considered by the government to be…

Type 2 diabetes found to be a ‘significant risk factor’ among stroke victims

More evidence has been published which supports that diabetes is a “significant…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…