New research is pointing to additional tests your physician can use to predict your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular complications. Don’t worry, it’s not parking you on the treadmill all day…
No, a new study is fingering kidney function tests as a useful tool for predicting future cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, stroke and even heart failure.
How effective? The study, published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, has the tests on par with measuring blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Dr. Kunihiro Matsushita, the lead author of the study, is pushing physicians to test kidney function and use the data as a predictor of future heart problems.
“If health care providers have data on kidney damage and kidney function – which they often do – they should be using those data to better understand a patient’s risk of cardiovascular disease.”
Kidney Function Tests
Testing kidney function for chronic kidney disease focuses on two tests. Yes, there are more but these two are useful in charting cardiovascular risk factors.
One is a blood test measuring creatinine levels. It’s a waste product from your muscles, and the test will show your physician how well your kidneys are filtering the substance from your system.
The creatinine blood test gives your doctor your eGFR or estimated glomerular filtration rate. Normal values are in the 90-120 mL/min range. Below 60 is indicative of some form of kidney damage or limited function.
A second test measures the amount of albumin in your urine. It is a protein that leaks out of your kidney and into your urine. The higher amounts found in your urine, the more likely your kidney function has been impacted, or you have early to severe stages of kidney disease.
The test can either be random, timed, overnight or a 24-hour urine sample.
Both tests are common, with the eGFR ordered if you have ever gone in for a basic metabolic panel at your primary care doctor.
Kidney Function and Cardiovascular Diseases
The study examined data collected from 24 previous studies included in the Chronic Kidney Disease Prognosis Consortium. The researchers looked at a total of 637,315 participants without a history of heart disease and with eGFR and albumin test results.
Results showed both tests independently increased the predictability of cardiovascular disease. In particular, tests improved the risk assessment of heart failure from either a heart attack or a stroke.
While both tests showed promise, it was the albumin levels in your urine that was the strongest predictor. It’s usefulness held even when smoking was accounted for in patients.
What Does it Mean for You
Lots of tests, medical jargon, etc. For you, it could mean a change in the way your doctor assesses your risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.
Current guidelines recommend kidney function tests for patients with diabetes, hypertension and potential chronic kidney damage. Study authors conclude their findings show patients outside the current guidelines may benefit from the tests.
How is kidney function related to heart disease? It’s not completely understood at this point, but Dr. Matsushita theorizes it is a fluid overload caused by kidneys not functioning correctly that inevitably leads to heart failure.
What can you do? The tests are easy to add to your medical record. Getting an eGFR test is as simple as having your doctor order a basic metabolic panel. It takes a couple days to get the results in.
The albumin urine test is another you can drop by your doctor and ask them to order.
In the end, it’s about being educated. Neither of the tests is expensive, and both have coverage on most health insurance plans. If everything is in the normal range, fantastic. But, it’s better to catch a problem now before it balloons into a major medical issue.