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Background: Metabolic syndrome (MS) is a risk factor for the development of heart failure (HF). However, little is known about how changes in MS over time are associated with HF risk.Hypothesis: We hypothesized that increasing MS components over time and a longer duration of MS would be associated with greater HF risk.Methods: We studied 8,104 participants at ARIC Visit 4 (1996-98) without baseline HF, coronary heart disease or diabetes. MS components were defined using AHA/NHLBI criteria for waist circumference, hyperglycemia, elevated blood pressure, low HDL-C and hypertriglyceridemia, and MS was diagnosed if ≥ 3 criteria were present. Using data on MS components from Visit 1 (1987-89) through 4, we used multivariate Cox regression models to evaluate associations of changes in MS components over time and duration of MS with incident HF occurring after Visit 4.Results: The mean age was 63 years (+/-6), with 58% female. Over a median follow-up of 16 years, there were 902 HF events. Compared to those without MS at Visits 1 and 4, those with MS at both time points had a hazard ratio (HR) for HF of 1.87 (95% CI 1.60-2.19), while those with no MS at Visit 1 but MS at Visit 4 (HR 1.38; 95% CI 1.16-1.64) and those with MS at Visit 1 but not at Visit 4 (1.51; 95% CI 1.13-2.00) had more modest risk associations. Among those without MS at Visit 1, those with 0 MS components at both Visits 1 and 4 had lowest HF risk (reference), with progressively higher risk seen for those who increased to 1-2 (HR 1.66; 95% CI 1.06-2.61), 3 (HR 2.15; 95% CI 1.37-3.38) and 4-5 (HR 2.55; 95% CI 1.58-4.13) MS components by Visit 4. Duration of MS had a positive association with HF risk (Figure), with a HR of 1.08 (95% CI 1.06-1.10) per year of MS duration.Conclusions: Progression in MS components over time and a longer duration of MS are associated with increased HF risk. Given the cardiovascular implications of these findings, particularly for the growing number of individuals developing MS components at an early age, strategies to prevent MS onset and progression should be implemented widely.