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Risk was greatest in males

Rockville, Md. (July 11, 2023)—Risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, doubled in people during the growth period from adolescence to young adulthood, according to researchers from the University of Eastern Finland and University of Exeter in the U.K. They also found the risk of metabolic syndrome was five times higher in males than in females. The article appears in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

Identifying a new risk factor for metabolic syndrome improves understanding of the disease development and the related health complications such as cardiovascular diseases and Type 2 diabetes.”—Andrew O. Agbaje, MD, MPH

Arterial stiffness occurs with aging and is linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, stroke and diabetes. Until now, no study continuously measured arterial stiffness and metabolic syndrome in adolescents as they grew into adulthood. In this seven-year review, more than 3,800 youngsters were measured in periodic follow-ups for obesity status, cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings.

The researchers determined arterial stiffness was higher in males during the period of review. Greater arterial stiffness that developed during observation increased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome by 9% in males. The risk in females rose by only 1% during the same period.

Scientists concluded arterial stiffness was the likely cause of metabolic syndrome, but metabolic syndrome doesn’t typically induce arterial stiffness. The research team believes arterial stiffness may partly cause metabolic syndrome through the increase in levels of fasting insulin and bad cholesterol.

“Arterial stiffness may become a focal target for early prevention and treatment of several cardiometabolic diseases,” said Andrew O. Agbaje, MD, MPH, the study’s author. “It may be an initiator of diseases in the youth and strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality in adults.”

Read the full article, “Arterial stiffness preceding metabolic syndrome in 3,862 adolescents: a mediation and temporal causal longitudinal birth cohort study,” in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.

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