Kidney TestsAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and about 610,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. Regardless of age or stage of kidney disease, cardiovascular disease is common in people with chronic kidney disease (CKD).

New research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests that tests regularly used to assess kidney function and damage could also help doctors predict the risk of conditions such as heart failure, stroke and heart attacks. The results of the study are expected to help physicians make better decisions about whether patients need lifestyle modifications such as better diets and more exercise or medication such as statins which are used for the prevention of heart disease.

There are two blood tests of kidney function:

  • The most common test checks for creatinine, which shows how efficiently the kidneys are filtering it out (a rate is called eGFR).
  • Another option measures albuminuria, measures how much of the protein albumin leaks out of the kidney and into the urine. Higher levels mean kidney damage. This test is commonly used in patients with diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease.

The researchers examined 24 studies included in the Chronic Kidney Disease Prognosis Consortium that involved a total of 637,315 participants without a history of cardiovascular disease and with results for eGFR and albuminuria tests.

It was found that between the two, albuminuria was the stronger predictor and even more efficient than systolic blood pressure and cholesterol levels as risk factors for heart disease. The lead researcher suggests that poorly functioning kidneys can lead to an excess of fluid which may cause heart failure. Complications that can develop from renal disease and lead to heart disease include anemia, high blood pressure, high homocysteine levels and diabetes. Therefore, the researchers suggest that physicians should use the results of tests to measure kidney damage and function to better understand a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.