The ‘slightly unhealthy’ middle aged traits linked to silent killers – are you at risk? | The Sun08/29/2023
MIDDLE-aged folk with three "slightly unhealthy traits" increase their risk of an early death by a third, a new study suggests.
Carrying extra weight in your 40s and 50s while also having raised blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels also meant people were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke over the next three decades.
They typically suffered either issue two years earlier than healthier people of the same age, on average.
Scientists warned that those in middle-age with this "cluster of slightly unhealthy traits", known as "metabolic syndrome", were unknowingly risking their health down the line.
Study author Dr Lena Lonnberg, of Vastmanland County Hospital in Sweden, 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.
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"This is a huge missed opportunity to intervene before heart attacks and strokes that could have been avoided occur."
Researchers studied data from more than 34,000 adults in their 40s and 50s who attended a heart disease screening programme in the 1990s.
Information was gathered on weight, height, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose (sugar) levels, and participants also completed a survey about their lifestyle habits.
People were deemed to have metabolic syndrome if they had three or more of the following traits:
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- A large waist circumference (above 40in for men and 35in for women)
- High cholesterol (6.1 mmol/l or above)
- High blood pressure (130 mmHg or higher systolic blood pressure and/or 85 mm Hg or higher diastolic blood pressure) or high blood sugar levels (above 5.6 mmol/l fasting)
Among the group, 5,000 had metabolic syndrome and their data was compared with 10,000 people without it.
Those who took part were then tracked for an average of 27 years.
During the follow-up period, 26 per cent of people with metabolic syndrome died, compared with 19 per cent without.
Researchers said this means that those with metabolic syndrome were 30 per cent more likely to die during the follow-up period compared with their counterparts without metabolic syndrome.
Some 32 per cent of people deemed to have metabolic syndrome had a non-fatal heart attack or stroke, compared with 22 per cent of people who did not.
This corresponds to a 35 per cent greater risk of heart attack and stroke among those with metabolic syndrome.
The team of academics said that people with the syndrome were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke 2.3 years earlier than their peers not living with the unhealthy traits.
Both health issues are often referred to as "silent killers" as they often come on with no symptoms or very mild ones which people don't realise is something more serious which can be fatal.
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Dr Lonnberg 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.
"Blood pressure was the riskiest component, particularly for women in their 40s, highlighting the value of keeping it under control."
She added: "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.
"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."
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said the findings reinforced the importance of keeping a close eye on your health early in adult life.
He added: "Even if you feel fine, small increases in your blood pressure, waist measurement, cholesterol and blood sugar can have a substantial impact on your future risk of heart attacks and strokes.
"The important message is that it is possible to reduce your risk through simple measures – eating well-balanced meals, regular physical activity, and not smoking can all help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and control your weight.
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"If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your GP can also advise on medication that can help to reduce your risk."
The study was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
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