Urine Levels of Key Protein Unlock Truth About Risk of Kidney, Heart Disease

New York, NY (December 20, 2004) - Now, predicting a person's future risk of kidney or cardiovascular disease may be as simple as checking their urine for traces of a protein called albumin, according to a new report from a first-of-its-kind National Kidney Foundation conference.

Specifically, research suggests that people with albumin in their urine are more at risk of eventually developing kidney or cardiovascular problems. Consequently, reducing the amount of albumin in the urine may offer people some protection from those potentially fatal diseases, or slow their progression.

"For the first time, doctors of all specialties — experts in treating diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, for example — agree that urinary albumin is a key factor in predicting future risk of kidney and cardiovascular disease, and should be incorporated into treatment plans for people already diagnosed with these diseases," says Dr. Dick de Zeeuw, chairman for the Symposium.

These are some of the many conclusions to emerge from a three-day event in New York City in May 2004, presented by the National Kidney Foundation in association with the International Society of Nephrology. During the conference, entitled "International Symposium on Albuminuria in Health and Disease: Predicting Outcomes and Target for Therapy," experts from around the world led discussions on the importance of urinary albumin in the identification and treatment of kidney and cardiovascular disease.

Currently, more than 20 million Americans — around one in nine adults — have chronic kidney disease. More than 20 million more are at increased risk for developing kidney disease, and most don't even know it. Three simple tests can identify potential kidney disease: blood pressure measurement, a urine test for protein, and a blood test for creatinine, which is used to calculate the person's level of kidney function. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the U.S., and patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of kidney and cardiovascular disease.

The kidneys normally act as filters and conserve protein; therefore, very little or no protein should appear in the urine. The appearance of protein in the urine may be the first sign of an otherwise silent kidney disease.

Recently, a growing amount of research has suggested that measuring urinary levels of albumin may be a particularly useful tool when predicting cardiovascular and kidney disease risks. Now, in the journal Kidney International, conference attendees present the most up-to-date information about albumin, and its importance in treating and preventing fatal diseases.

The findings include:

  • The presence of albumin in urine signals an increased risk of developing kidney problems over a short-term (4-year) period, even in people with no kidney or heart problems.
  • Since urinary albumin predicts both kidney and cardiovascular risks, the protein may explain why kidney and cardiovascular problems often go hand-in-hand. For instance, the presence of albumin in urine may serve as a sign of overall blood vessel problems that can trigger both kidney and cardiovascular disease.
  • In Asian countries, where the rate of diabetes is rapidly increasing, up to 40 percent of diabetics with hypertension also have traces of albumin in their urine. This suggests that this region is on the verge of a pandemic of cardiovascular and kidney health problems related to diabetes.
  • Even minute amounts of protein in urine appear to suggest that people with risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes are more likely to develop cardiovascular or kidney disease.
  • Popular blood pressure medications such as ACE inhibitors can reduce the amount of protein in urine, which may help explain why these drugs can slow the progression of kidney disease.

"We hope these conclusions help stimulate more research into the importance of albumin, and encourage health care professionals to make albumin an integral part of their efforts to manage and treat kidney and cardiovascular disease," says de Zeeuw.

For a copy of the Kidney International supplement, send an email to info@kidney.org with a request for the "KI supplement on albuminuria". Supplies are limited. Or to download the report, click here (Limited-time offer).


About The National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation is a major voluntary health organization, which seeks to prevent kidney and urinary tract diseases, improve the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplants.