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OBJECTIVES: To assess the prospective association between metabolic syndrome (MetS) and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in older people and to evaluate the effect of lowering the threshold for impaired fasting glucose (IFG) on the prevalence of IFG and MetS and the risk of CVD.

DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Four field centers in U.S. communities.

PARTICIPANTS: Three thousand five hundred eighty-five subjects in the Cardiovascular Health Study free of diabetes mellitus and CVD at baseline (mean age 72, 62% female, 14% black).

MEASUREMENTS: Baseline measures of MetS components and adjudicated incident CVD events. MetS (2001) was defined first using the original criteria from the Third Adult Treatment Panel Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (>=3 of the following: large waist circumference (women >88 cm, men >102 cm), elevated triglycerides (>=1.70 mmol/L), low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (men <1.04 mmol/L, women <1.30 mmol/L), elevated fasting glucose (6.1-6.9 mmol/L), and high blood pressure (>=130/85 mmHg or self-reported use of medications for hypertension). Subjects were also classified according to the revised definition of the MetS (2005) that applies the lower threshold for fasting glucose (5.6-6.9 mmol/L).

RESULTS: During follow-up (median 11 years), 818 coronary heart disease (CHD), 401 stroke, and 554 congestive heart failure (CHF) events occurred. Age- and race-adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) for CHD, stroke, and CHF were 1.30 (95% confidence interval (CI)=1.07-1.57), 0.94 (95% CI=0.73-1.21), and 1.40 (95% CI=1.12-1.76) for women and 1.35 (95% CI=1.10-1.66), 1.51 (95% CI=1.08-2.12), and 1.47 (95% CI=1.14-1.90) for men, respectively. Overall, women and men with MetS (2005) were 20% to 30% more likely to experience any CVD event than subjects without MetS (2005). Using the lower cut-point for IFG resulted in a near tripling in IFG prevalence (16% to 46%) and an additional 9% classified with MetS (2005) but HRs similar to those estimated from the original MetS (2001) criteria. High blood pressure was the component most strongly associated with incident CHD.

CONCLUSION: Results from this study of an elderly, population-based cohort provide support for earlier investigations in primarily middle-aged populations that link the presence of MetS with the development of CVD and further underscore the importance of recognizing and treating its individual components, particularly high blood pressure.

(C) 2006 by the American Geriatrics Society