June 23 (UPI) -- As many as 37 percent of all American adults have metabolic syndrome, placing them at increased risk for heart disease and other health problems, according to a study published Tuesday by JAMA.
In addition, nearly half of all U.S. adults aged 60 years and older have the condition, the researchers said.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions -- including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat and abnormal cholesterol -- that occur together, according to the Mayo Clinic. Collectively, they increase a person's risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
A 2015 study found that one in three American adults has metabolic syndrome.
"The prevalence of metabolic syndrome has continued to increase," study co-author Dr. Robert Wong, a gastroenterologist at Stanford University, told UPI.
"Our results emphasize the importance of raising greater awareness of this public health issue, and highlight the need for patients and providers to work together to proactively and effectively screen [for] diseases associated with metabolic syndrome such as obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance and [high cholesterol]," he said.
For the new research, Wong and colleagues reviewed data on more than 17,000 adults from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, covering a six-year period from 2011 through 2016.
In all, 36.9 percent of participants had metabolic syndrome in 2015-16, up from 32.5 percent in 2011-12, they found.
Older adults still made up the brunt of metabolic syndrome cases within the study population, but younger adults had the highest increase in prevalence over the study period, the researchers said.
By 2015-16, 21.3 of adults aged 20 to 39 years had metabolic syndrome, up from 16.2 percent in 2011-12, they said.
Large increases in prevalence also were seen in Hispanic and Asian populations, researchers reported.
Overall, 40.4 percent of Hispanic adults had metabolic syndrome in 2015-16, up from 32.9 percent in 2011-12, while, among Asian Americans, prevalence increased to 26.2 percent from 19.9 percent over the same period.
"Minimizing risk of and preventing developing of metabolic syndrome is challenging," Wong said.
"However, adopting a more active and health-conscious lifestyle, through healthy diets as well as regular exercise, certainly helps with reducing risks of metabolic syndrome and its associated complications."