Simple measures of kidney function and damage may be just as good at predicting who is at risk for heart failure and death from heart attack and stroke as traditional tests of cholesterol levels and blood pressure, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health-led research suggests.
Published in the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology on May 29, the researchers say their data may help physicians make better decisions about whether patients need lifestyle modifications such as better diets and more exercise or treatments such as statins, medication widely used for cardiovascular disease prevention.
Most importantly, the researchers note, the information is already widely available for many patients. The most common assessment of kidney function checks the blood for creatinine, a waste product of the muscles, and reflects how well the kidneys are filtering it out (called an estimated glomerular filtration rate, or eGFR). The test is given an estimated 290 million times every year in the United States. Another key test measures albuminuria, or how much of the protein albumin leaks out of the kidney and into the urine. Higher amounts indicate the presence of kidney damage. It is also a fairly common test, particularly in patients with diabetes, hypertension and kidney disease
“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,” says study lead author Dr. Kunihiro Matsushita, an assistant scientist in the Bloomberg School’s department of epidemiology. “Cholesterol levels and blood pressure tests are good indicators of cardiovascular risk, but they are not perfect. This study tells us we could do even better with information that often times we are already collecting.”