BACKGROUND: The metabolic syndrome has been associated with cardiovascular disease, but few studies have examined its relationship with subclinical measures such as echocardiographic left ventricular (LV) mass. This relationship is likely to be of particular importance in blacks, in whom both the metabolic syndrome and LV hypertrophy are common.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Echocardiography, performed at 1 of 4 sites in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, was used to assess LV dimensions in 1572 black women and men aged 49 to 75 years in 1993-1996. Participants were categorized by number of metabolic syndrome characteristics (hypertension, dyslipidemia [low HDL cholesterol or high triglycerides], and glucose intolerance). Age-adjusted mean LV mass indexed by height (g/m) increased in a stepwise gradient with increasing number of metabolic syndrome disorders (none, any 1, any 2, all 3) in both women and men (125.1, 143.9, 153.7, 169.3 and 130.5, 148.7, 160.8, 170.2, respectively; P<0.001, tests for trend). Associations were diminished slightly by adjustment for smoking, alcohol intake, and education; additional adjustment for waist circumference resulted in some attenuation, but associations remained statistically significant. Analyses focusing on components of LV mass revealed that posterior wall and interventricular septal thickness, but not LV chamber size, were significantly and independently associated in general with the number of metabolic syndrome disorders. Consistent with these findings, relative wall thickness was also associated with number of disorders. Associations were similar across age and central adiposity. Hypertension had a strong influence on LV mass with additional contributions from dyslipidemia and glucose intolerance; strong synergistic effects of the syndrome beyond its individual components were not observed.
CONCLUSIONS: In this cross-sectional population-based study of black women and men, the degree of metabolic syndrome clustering was strongly related to LV mass and its wall thickness components. These associations are consistent with a possible influence of underlying factors such as insulin resistance or other vascular processes on myocardial thickening and not on chamber size.