Clustering of metabolic syndrome risk factors and arterial stiffness in young adults: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts Project

Isabel Ferreira, Colin A. Boreham, Jos W. R. Twisk, Alison Gallagher, Ian S. Young, Liam J. Murray, Coen D. A. Stehouwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives This study aimed to investigate whether the clustering of the risk factors of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with stiffness of central and peripheral arterial segments; whether these associations are similar in men and women; and whether insulin resistance and low-grade inflammation mediate any such associations. Background Increased arterial stiffness may explain, at least in part, the increased cardiovascular and diabetes risk associated with the MetS. However, the mechanisms linking the MetS to an increased arterial stiffness are incompletely understood, and gender differences may exist. Methods Cross-sectional analyses of data on 313 young men and women (mean age 23 years) from the Northern Ireland Young Hearts Project. Subjects were categorized according to the number of traits of the MetS; in addition a continuous MetS score was calculated. Arterial stiffness was assessed by measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV) in three arterial segments using a non-invasive optical method. Results The prevalence of the MetS was similar for men (10.6%) and women (10.5%). After adjustment for potential confounders and other cardiovascular risk factors, PWV of the three arterial segments investigated increased with increasing traits of the MetS in women only. Women with the MetS, as compared to those without risk factors of the syndrome, had greater PWV of the aorto-iliac (R14.0%, PU0.016), the aorto-radial (R13.2%, PU0.010) and aorto-dorsalis pedis (R11.8%, PU0.011) segments. A great deal ( up to 75%) of the association between the MetS and aortic-iliac PWV was mediated by heart rate, inflammation markers [C- reactive protein (CRP) and fibrinogen] and insulin resistance [homeostatic model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR)], whereas these variables did not explain much of the association between the MetS and PWV of the peripheral segments. Conclusions Young women with the MetS show increased stiffness of peripheral and central arteries, a mechanism that may explain their increased cardiovascular risk. Low-grade inflammation, insulin resistance and sympathetic activation explain much of the adverse impact of the MetS on central, but not peripheral, arterial stiffness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1009-1020
JournalJournal of Hypertension
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - May 2007


Dive into the research topics of 'Clustering of metabolic syndrome risk factors and arterial stiffness in young adults: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts Project'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this