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Link between reductions in kidney function and heart and blood vessel damage found

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Posted January 18, 2016

Scientists from the University of Birmingham for the first time ever revealed a direct link between small reductions in kidney function and the subtle heart and blood vessel damage. Heart damage in chronic kidney disease patients have been observed before, but direct link has been proven only now. Small heart and blood vessel damage, however, can be one of the risks of kidney donors as well.

Normally heart is about the size of the fist. However, small reductions in kidney function can lead to enlarged left-side of the heart, which makes the heart stiffer and impairs its ability to contract. Image credit: ALSUSAFAROVA via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Normally heart is about the size of the fist. However, small reductions in kidney function can lead to enlarged left-side of the heart, which makes the heart stiffer and impairs its ability to contract. Image credit: ALSUSAFAROVA via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

The research included participants who had chosen to donate a kidney. Scientists wanted to see if donation of the kidney would result in any adverse changes in their heart and blood vessels. Study showed that small reductions in kidney functions do in fact affect heart and blood vessels in a negative way, even if the donor is very healthy. They found that participants after donation had an enlarged left-side of the heart. It impairs function of the heart in a subtle way, because heart becomes stiffer, it is harder for it to contract.

This was a clear evidence that small reductions in kidney function are directly linked to subtle heart and blood vessel damage. However, scientists stress that it should not discourage those who are thinking about kidney donation as there are no real evidence showing that those who have donated a kidney have a higher risk to suffer from heart and blood vessel damage than the general population.

However, although this may not be that relevant for kidney donors, results of the research may have consequences for chronic kidney disease patients. They often have impaired cardiac function, which sometimes even leads to death. However, until now the link has not been discovered. Now scientists managed to show that impaired kidney functions may lead to subtle heart and blood vessel damage. Researchers now are planning further steps for the research.

Now scientists say that a major research effort is needed to understand the risk chronic kidney disease patients face better and to find ways to avoid it. Dr William Moody, one of the authors of the study, said: “early stage kidney disease is a public health problem because it is common and carries an increased risk of heart and circulatory disease. A major research effort is needed to understand this risk and to find measures to prevent this damage. For now, people with blood tests showing slightly reduced kidney function should certainly consider discussing heart disease risk with their doctors and consider how best to reduce this”. This means that this research opens new possibilities to make more informed consultations with patients and to address their cardiovascular health better.

Source: birmingham.ac.uk

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