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The Metabolic Syndrome is an Important Stroke Risk Factor that is Often Under-Recognized in Women

Posted May 20 2009 12:06pm

The metabolic syndrome is a group of interrelated risk factors that when present can predispose women to stroke, heart disease and diabetes.  The metabolic syndrome is often referred to as “pre-diabetes”.  Approximately 23% of men and women in the United States have the metabolic syndrome.  Minority women are more prone to develop the metabolic syndrome and therefore may be at a greater risk for stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.  The metabolic syndrome has received a tremendous amount of attention from the health care research communities over the past several years but this information may not be reaching the appropriate people.

We decided to study the metabolic syndrome risk factors in women to determine their risk for stroke, heart disease and diabetes. In this study we evaluated 535 women for the presence of risk factors.  (This data was presented at the American Stroke Association Conference in San Diego, February 2009)  The metabolic syndrome risk factors evaluated were: fasting blood sugar level, waist circumference, fasting triglyceride level, high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) level, and blood pressure.  Diagnosis of the metabolic syndrome was based on the modified National Cholesterol Education Adult Treatment Panel III criteria.   Of the 535 women we evaluated, 25% (135 women) met the criteria for the metabolic syndrome.  Criteria for the metabolic syndrome occurred in the following percentages of patients: 48% had an elevated fasting blood sugar level, 92% had a waist circumference greater than 35 inches, 60% had an elevated Triglyceride level, 75% had an elevated blood pressure, 67% had a low HDL.  Eighty nine percent (120 women) of the women diagnosed with the metabolic syndrome had a primary care physician.  Less than 10% of the 120 women with a primary care physician had been previously diagnosed with the metabolic syndrome by their physician, if they had not attended our screening this diagnosis would have been missed. Our study concluded that – One of the key prevention strategies of stroke, diabetes and heart disease is the early diagnosis and treatment of the metabolic syndrome risk factors.  If waist circumferences were not measured in our patients the diagnosis of the Metabolic Syndrome would have been missed in 46% of these women.  In order to prevent the development of stroke, diabetes and heart disease waist circumference should be measured during regular physical exams. 

Do you know your waist measurement??? When was the last time you checked your waist measurement???

Women should have a waist circumference less than 35 inches, and men a waist circumference less than 40 inches.

If you do not know your risk for the metabolic syndrome please ask your healthcare provider during your next office visit.

For more information about heart disease, risk factors, and our new book about Women and Heart Disease visit

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