Kidney function linked to cardiovascular health

The link between kidney failure and heart disease is not fully understood. [Shutterstock]

A new study has revealed that tests for kidney function can be equally effective at indicating a patient’s risk of heart disease as blood pressure or cholesterol tests. EURACTIV France reports

A study published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal has found that kidney function tests can be used to determine a patient’s risk of heart disease.

Doctor Kunihiro Matsushita, assistant scientist at Bloomberg School of Public Health and author of the study, said “If health professionals have access to a patient’s history of kidney disease and kidney function, which they often do, they should use it to better understand that patient’s risk of heart disease.”

There are few reliable methods of the early diagnosis for cardiovascular diseases, which often arrive without warning in the form of heart attacks or strokes.

This means it is all the more important to use medical tests to evaluate a patient’s health and to tackle behavioural risk factors such as smoking, alcoholism, sedentariness, diabetes, hypertension.

>> Read: French organisation calls for greater diabetes prevention

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks heart disease as the world’s leading cause of death. It was the third cause of early death (below 65) in France between 2008 and 2010, killing over 44,000 people.

Kidney failure and heart disease

The biological link between kidney disease and heart disease is not yet fully understood. But according to Matsushita, kidney failure can lead to a fluid overload, which may in turn result in heart failure.

According to the study, half of patients suffering from chronic kidney disease are killed by a cardiovascular condition before reaching their disease’s terminal phase.

For Matsushita, cholesterol and blood pressure are still good indicators of cardiovascular health, but they are far from perfect. “This study shows that we could make better use of information that we often already possess.”

Two revealing tests

Researchers used the albuminuria and eGFR test results from 24 previous studies of 637,315 patients with no history of cardiovascular disease.

Albuminuria refers to the presence of the protein albumin in a patient’s urine. A high level of albumin is often an indicator of kidney disease.

The eGFR test (estimated glomerular filtration rate) tracks kidney function by examining levels of creatine in the blood, and determines the amount of blood filtered by the kidneys each minute.

As creatine is almost exclusively filtered out by the kidneys, creatine levels in the blood are a good indicator of kidney function.

The researchers concluded that using the results of these two tests would help doctors to more accurately identify the risk of heart failure or heart attacks.

>> Read: France leads Europe in cardiovascular health

Current medical guidelines recommend that patients suffering from diabetes, hypertension and kidney failure undergo these two tests.

According to the study’s authors, doctors could use the data they provide to offer patients treatments such as statins, or recommend preventative lifestyle changes like better diet and more exercise.

>> Read: Experts mull ways to reverse chronic diseases trend

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer are by far the biggest causes of death in the world, accounting for 60% of deaths.

Around four million people in Europe and 1.5 million in the European Union die each year from heart disease, according to the European Heart Network (EHN) and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). The commonest forms of heart disease are coronary diseases and strokes.

To reduce the number of deaths from heart disease, the European Union has decided to take action on the factors behind cardiovascular health in its 2014-2020 health programme.

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