A shocking majority of U.S. adults are at an early, middle, or late stage of cardiovascular, kidney, and metabolic (CKM) syndrome, a new study revealed.

The American Heart Association recently coined the term CKM for interrelated factors that could lead to heart disease. CKM includes people who are at risk for developing CVD (cardiovascular disease) and those with existing CVD.

There are four stages of CKM:

Stage 1: Includes people with excess body fat and those with impaired glucose tolerance or prediabetes.

Stage 2: People with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and cholesterol.

Stage 3: People at high risk of developing heart disease but without noticeable symptoms.

Stage 4: The stage at which people get diagnosed with full-blown heart disease, with or without kidney disease.

In the latest study, researchers used data from more than 10,000 people who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to estimate the prevalence of various CKM syndrome stages.

"Almost 90% of U.S. adults met the criteria for CKM syndrome (stage 1 or higher) and 15% met the criteria for advanced stages, neither of which improved between 2011 and 2020," the researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Jama Network.

The study found that almost 50% of the participants were at stage 2 of CKM, putting them in the moderate risk category for heart disease risk. Only 18.2% of adults between 20 and 44 years had stage 0 with no CKM risk factors. Adults 65 years or older were more likely to be at advanced stages than those at other stages of life.

Compared with women, men were more likely to have advanced stages, and compared with White adults, Black adults were significantly more likely to have advanced stages of CKM syndrome.

"We were surprised that almost 90% of people met the criteria. It was much higher than we anticipated in a database that included younger adults," said study co-author Dr. Rahul Aggarwal from Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

"I think one of the biggest factors contributing to the fact that the percentage of people in advanced stages is not improving is obesity, which is very prevalent in the U.S.," Dr. Aggarwal added.