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Open Access Original investigation

The metabolic syndrome and progression of carotid atherosclerosis over 13 years. The Tromsø study

Marit Herder12*, Kjell Arne Arntzen34, Stein Harald Johnsen34 and Ellisiv B Mathiesen34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, N-9038, Tromsø, Norway

2 Department of Radiology, University Hospital North Norway, Tromsø, Norway

3 Department of Neurology and Neurophysiology, University Hospital North Norway, Tromsø, Norway

4 Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2012, 11:77  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-11-77

Published: 27 June 2012

Abstract

Background

The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In this study, we examine if metabolic syndrome predicts progression of atherosclerosis over 13 years.

Methods

Participants were 1442 men and 1532 women in the population-based Tromsø Study who underwent carotid ultrasound examinations at baseline in the 4th (1994–5) and at follow-up in the 6th survey (2007–8). Of these, 278 men and 273 women fulfilled the criteria for the MetS, defined according to a modified version of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP, ATPIII). Carotid atherosclerosis was assessed as total plaque area (TPA) and mean intima-media thickness (IMT) at follow-up and as change in IMT and TPA from baseline to follow-up. Associations between MetS and its components and carotid atherosclerosis were assessed in linear regression models adjusted for age, total cholesterol and daily smoking, stratified by sex.

Results

IMT and TPA levels at follow-up (p < 0.0001) and progression of TPA (p = 0.02) were higher in the MetS group compared to the non-MetS group. In stepwise multivariable models, MetS was associated with TPA (β = 0.372 mm2, p = 0.009) and IMT (β = 0.051 mm, p < 0.0001) in men, and with IMT (β = 0.045 mm, p = 0.001) in women after 13 years of follow-up, but not with progression of IMT or TPA. In analyses stratified by age, MetS predicted progression of IMT (β = 0.043 mm, p = 0.046) and TPA (β = 1.02 mm2, p = 0.002) in men below 50 years of age. Hypertension was predictive of follow-up TPA and IMT in both genders and of progression of TPA in women. Impaired glucose tolerance was associated with follow up levels of IMT and TPA as well as progression in IMT in men. None of the other components of MetS were associated with progression of atherosclerosis.

Conclusions

Subjects with MetS had higher levels of IMT and TPA at follow up than those without MetS. Mets predicted progression of IMT and TPA in those below 50 years of age, but not in other age groups, indicating that MetS may be involved in the initiation of the atherosclerotic process.

Keywords:
Metabolic syndrome; Carotid artery; Atherosclerosis; Intima-media thickness; Plaque; Progression; Risk factor; Prospective; Population study