The American Heart Association (AHA) has announced a new medical condition that reflects the strong links among obesity, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease. The condition is called cardiovascular-kidney-metabolic (CKM) syndrome and it affects millions of Americans.
What is CKM syndrome?
CKM syndrome is a term that describes the spectrum of cardiovascular, kidney and metabolic diseases that often overlap and increase the risk of dying from heart disease. These diseases include obesity, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease (CKD), high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and fatty liver disease.
According to the AHA, CKM syndrome affects almost every major organ in the body, but its biggest impact is on the cardiovascular system. CKM syndrome can damage the blood vessels, heart muscles and the rate of fatty buildup in the arteries.
The AHA estimates that 90% of U.S. adults fall on the CKM spectrum, meaning they have at least one risk factor for these diseases. One in three U.S. adults have three or more risk factors that contribute to CKM syndrome, according to the AHA’s 2023 Statistical Update.
Why is CKM syndrome important?
The AHA created the term CKM syndrome to highlight the connection between these diseases and to emphasize the need for early diagnosis and treatment. The AHA hopes that by defining CKM syndrome, health care providers can better identify people who are at high risk of developing or dying from heart disease and start preventive therapies sooner.
“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the U.S., and we know that many people who have heart disease also have other chronic conditions that affect their health and quality of life,” said Dr. Chiadi E. Ndumele, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.S., FAHA, co-author and an associate professor of medicine and director of obesity and cardiometabolic research in the division of cardiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
“The advisory addresses the connections among these conditions with a particular focus on identifying people at early stages of CKM syndrome. Screening for kidney and metabolic disease will help us start protective therapies earlier to most effectively prevent heart disease and best manage existing heart disease,” Ndumele said in a statement.
How is CKM syndrome diagnosed?
The AHA has proposed four stages of CKM syndrome, ranging from stage 0 (no risk factors) to stage 4 (multiple risk factors). The stages are based on the presence and severity of obesity, type 2 diabetes, CKD, and cardiovascular disease.
The AHA recommends that health care providers screen people for CKM syndrome using simple tests such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and kidney function. The AHA also suggests that providers use a risk calculator for heart attack and stroke that can estimate the 10-year and 30-year risk for these events.
Additionally, the AHA advises that providers address social factors that may increase the risk of CKM syndrome, such as poverty, food insecurity, lack of access to health care, and exposure to environmental toxins.
How is CKM syndrome treated?
The AHA emphasizes that CKM syndrome requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach to treatment that involves different specialties and disciplines. The AHA encourages providers to work together to help patients with CKM syndrome manage their conditions and reduce their risk of complications.
The AHA also recommends that patients with CKM syndrome adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, managing stress, and getting enough sleep.
Some medications may also help treat CKM syndrome by lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, or inflammation. However, the AHA cautions that some drugs may have adverse effects on other organs or interact with other medications. Therefore, providers should carefully monitor patients with CKM syndrome and adjust their treatment plans accordingly.
The AHA hopes that by defining CKM syndrome and providing updated guidelines for screening, diagnosis and treatment, more people can prevent or delay the onset of heart disease and improve their overall health and well-being.