Chronic kidney disease—even asymptomatic forms of the disease—increases a person's risk of heart disease, stroke, or death, according to researchers with Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in a paper published in the September 23, 2004 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
"What we found was that the risk of death and cardiovascular disease increased as kidney function declined," says lead author Dr. Alan S. Go. "Even at relatively modest levels of kidney disease—so low that a person may not know they have it—the risk increased significantly."
The retrospective cohort study evaluated the histories of more than 1.1 million adults who were patients of Kaiser Permanente between 1996 and 2000. The average age of the group studied was 52 years; 55% of the group was female.
As the ability of the kidneys to filter out the body's toxins decreased, also known as the glomerular filtration rate or GFR, the risk of death increased proportionally. At a modest level of dysfunction, the risk of death was increased by 17%, while at the lowest levels, the risk increased nearly sixfold.
"The most important message to take away from this study is that patients who are at any risk of kidney disease—because of family history, high blood pressure, or diabetes—should be screened by their doctors to measure their kidney function. Caught early, kidney disease can be managed through diet and medication and these risks can hopefully be lowered."