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Aug 25, 2014 09:03 AM EDT

Coronary Calcium Better Indicator of Heart Disease Among CKD Patients: Research

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A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have discovered a new indicator of heart disease in patients of kidney disease.

Calcium build-up in the coronary arteries might be a better indicator than traditional risk factors used for the general population. Since kidney helps control the body's calcium levels, patients with chronic kidney disease often have altered calcium metabolism, which may influence the usefulness of calcium in the coronary artery walls as an indicator of heart disease.

The researchers believe that the novel diagnosis can safeguard the heart health of patients with kidney disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Previous studies showed that conventional risk factors for predicting heart disease risk aren't as useful in CKD patients.

For the study, the researchers observed 6553 adults aged between 45 and 84 years, without prior cardiovascular disease, from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Among the participants, 1284 had CKD.

During an average follow-up of 8.4 years, 650 cardiovascular events (coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease) occurred. Nearly 236 of the events occurred in CKD participants.

The researchers found that  calcium build-up in the coronary artery walls was effective in accurately determining CKD patients' risk of cardiovascular disease (particularly coronary heart disease and heart failure) than other measures of atherosclerosis like thickness of the carotid artery walls and narrowing of the arteries in the legs.

"Our research is important since it assures the usefulness of coronary artery calcium for better cardiovascular disease prediction in persons with CKD, a population at high risk for cardiovascular disease but with potential caveats for the use of traditional risk factors," said Kunihiro Matsushita in a press release.

The finding will be published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

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