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May 31, 2016

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Reduces Risk for Kidney Disease

A simple set of guidelines for preventing heart disease may protect against chronic kidney disease, finds study.

Heart-healthy choices like staying active and managing blood pressure help prevent chronic kidney disease, according to results of a large national study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association recently established a set of recommendations to prevent heart disease, known as “Life’s Simple 7.” They include factors related to cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, smoking, body mass index (BMI), physical activity and diet. With these guidelines, experts hope to significantly improve heart health and reduce heart-related deaths in the next few years. But it’s also possible that Life’s Simple 7 may do more than simply improve heart health.

Chronic kidney disease, which causes a gradual loss of kidney function, currently affects more than 4.5 million Americans. Heart and kidney disease share similar risk factors, such as high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol, leading experts to wonder if Life’s Simple 7, which address these risk factors, also helps protect against kidney disease.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the ARIC study (Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities), which followed more than 14,000 U.S. adults to learn about trends and risk factors related to heart disease. Participants came from four U.S. communities in North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota and Maryland and underwent up to six medical exams between 1987 and 2013 to assess health and lifestyle choices.

During the study period, 18% of participants developed chronic kidney disease. However, those adhering to Life’s Simple 7 had significantly lower risk for kidney disease than those who didn’t. Five of the seven heart health factors were linked to lower risk for kidney disease, including smoking, body mass index, physical activity, blood pressure and blood sugar. Researchers found that the more ideal health factors a participant had, the lower their risk for kidney disease.

Researchers also found that when estimating risk for developing kidney disease, estimations were more accurate when including Life’s Simple 7 rather than typical models that only consider age, sex, race and markers of kidney function.

Authors conclude that following Life’s Simple 7, which was developed to promote heart health, is also linked to lower risk for chronic kidney disease. By making simple heart-healthy choices like managing cholesterol levels and eating healthy, we may also help reduce our risk for kidney disease. With future research, experts hope to better explore strategies like Life’s Simple 7 for the prevention of heart disease and kidney disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is kidney disease?
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when kidneys become damaged and unable to do their jobs properly. CKD can slowly develop over a long period of time, and is often caused by diabeteshigh blood pressure and other health conditions. Early detection and treatment can help slow disease progression and keep CKD from getting worse.
  • Why does chronic kidney disease increase risk for heart disease?
  • Chronic kidney disease can lead to a number of health complications like diabetes and high blood pressure, which put patients at significantly increased risk for heart disease. Chronic kidney disease is now an established risk factor for heart disease and prevention strategies to reduce cardiovascular risk are critical for patients with this condition.

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