Stroke risk increases with metabolic syndrome

April 01, 2003

HONOLULU, HI - People with high blood pressure, large waistlines and other risk factors called metabolic syndrome are more likely to suffer a stroke, according to research presented during the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Honolulu, March 29-April 5, 2003. The risk of stroke is greater for women with metabolic syndrome than for men with the syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that is also tied to increased risk of heart attack. Metabolic syndrome is defined as having three or more of the following risk factors:"We've been looking at these vascular risk factors separately and their effect on stroke risk, but these results show that we may need to look at them all together," said the study's lead author, Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, DrPH, of Columbia University in New York, NY. "The good news is that these are all modifiable risk factors. Metabolic syndrome and the increased stroke risk can potentially be reversed with behaviors such as increased physical activity and weight loss."

For the study, researchers followed 3,298 stroke-free residents of northern Manhattan, NY, with an average age of 69 for over four years, on average. More than 42 percent of the participants met the criteria for metabolic syndrome at baseline. A total of 128 people had first strokes during the study period.

People with metabolic syndrome were 1.5 times more likely to develop a stroke than people who did not have the syndrome. Of particular importance, women with metabolic syndrome were 2.1 times more likely to have a stroke than those without the condition.

"Now we can focus on people, particularly women, who have metabolic syndrome and work on modifying those risk factors and prevent some of these strokes from happening," Boden-Albala said.

Study participants with metabolic syndrome were also more likely to have heart attacks and to die of vascular-related causes than those without the syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome was more prevalent among Hispanics than whites or blacks, Boden-Albala said, with 49 percent of Hispanics with the syndrome, compared to 36 percent of whites and 35 percent of blacks.

Boden-Albala stressed that the study found an increased risk of stroke for all people with metabolic syndrome, regardless of race, age or other factors, such as physical inactivity and current smoking.

In metabolic syndrome, the body develops insulin resistance -- the normal actions of insulin are impaired. The body has to produce more insulin, which raises blood sugar levels.
The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its web site at

Editor's Notes: Dr. Boden-Albala will present the research at the AAN's 55th Annual Meeting in Honolulu during a platform presentation on Wed., April 2 at 2:15 p.m. in Room 311 at the Hawaii Convention Center (HCC). Dr. Boden-Albala will be available to answer media questions during a briefing on Tues., April 1 at 10 a.m. in the AAN Press Room, Room 327 of the HCC.

All listed times are for Hawaiian-Aleutian Standard Time (HT).
For more information contact:
Kathy Stone, 651-695-2763,
March 29-April 5, 808-792-6630
Marilee Reu, 651-695-2789,

American Academy of Neurology

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