The metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a cluster of risk factors for cardiovascular disease associated with reduced physical fitness, higher disease burden, and impaired cognitive functions. Little is known about the operation of these risk factors in older adults when considered comprehensively without relying on the cut-off values of the single MetS components. The three main aims of the current study were to: (i) establish a latent metabolic load factor (MetL), using confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and representing a continuous measure of MetL, defined by indicators that are commonly used to separate MetS groups from healthy individuals; (ii) examine the associations of this MetL factor with objective health, and cognitive function in men and women; (iii) compare the magnitude of these associations to those observed for the individual indicators used to define the MetL factor as well to the classical categorized MetS vs. non-MetS groups. The current analysis is based on cross-sectional data from 1,609 participants of the Berlin Aging Study II (mean age = 68.5 years, SD (3.7); 50.1% female). We applied structural equation modeling (SEM) to establish a latent MetL factor defined by the five indicators commonly used to diagnose MetS. The latent MetL factor was associated with physician-assessed morbidity and kidney function (estimated glomerular filtration rate, eGFR) in both men and women, but not with hand grip strength and lung function (Forced Expiratory Volume in 1 Second (FEV1)). In addition, we found a negative association between MetL and fluid intelligence among men. A continuous latent variable approach representing the common variance of MetS indicators is well suited to foster our understanding of human aging as a systemic phenomenon in which risk factors are operating on either side of the normal versus pathological divide.