History of kidney stones may indicate risk for stroke and heart attack

March 3, 2014 by Amy Hewko
Todd Alexander led a study that revealed a link between kidney stones and heart problems, particularly for young women.

(Medical Xpress)—A new study from University of Alberta researchers suggests that patients, particularly women, with a history of kidney stones may be at a higher risk for stroke and heart attack.

The study, published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, was led by Todd Alexander, associate professor of and adjunct professor of physiology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The researchers analyzed information over 12 years from more than three million Canadian over the age of 18. Alexander compared the prevalence of attacks, stoke and artery bypass surgeries in patients who had a kidney stone with that among the rest of the population. Results showed that patients who had at least one kidney stone were significantly more likely to experience , stroke or artery bypass surgeries, regardless of age or other illness.

Women were particularly vulnerable: young women with a history of kidney stones were three times more likely to experience a heart-related complication.

"We were able to show that people who had kidney stones were more likely to get acute myocardial infarction [heart attacks], strokes and revascularization procedures," Alexander said.

The link may be life-altering for patients with a history of kidney stones because it offers an early indication that they should pay close attention to their heart health. High blood pressure is strongly tied to heart-related illnesses but, unless it has been previously diagnosed by a physician, patients are often unaware they have the condition. Kidney stones, on the other hand, are painful and require immediate medical attention.

"We call hypertension the silent killer," Alexander explained. "You're not aware you're hypertensive. Kidney stones are different; you're very aware you have a kidney stone. This is potentially a mechanism for one to be identified earlier for screening."

By being screened earlier, patients will be better equipped to control health indicators like blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This benefits the patient's health and eases cost to the health-care system for emergency procedures.

To reduce risk of developing kidney stones, physicians recommend drinking plenty of water, limiting salt intake, limiting soda intake and getting plenty of calcium. But can these habits potentially ward off a or heart attack?

"I would like to think they do, but it's not known," Alexander said. "I don't think it's going to hurt. Less sodium will decrease your and likely decrease your cardiovascular risk.

"Just because you have a kidney stone doesn't mean you're going to have a heart attack. Just because you don't have a doesn't mean you won't. It's not a direct association; it's simply a marker of increased risk."

Alexander now hopes to confirm that the association between kidney stones and heart disease is causal. Pending the results of the secondary study, he would like to investigate whether expelling more calcium through urine decreases the cardiovascular risk.

Explore further: Diet and physical activity may affect one's risk of developing kidney stones

More information: R. Todd Alexander, Brenda R. Hemmelgarn, Natasha Wiebe, Aminu Bello, Susan Samuel, Scott W. Klarenbach, Gary C. Curhan, Marcello Tonelli. "Kidney Stones and Cardiovascular Events: A Cohort Study." CJASN CJN.04960513; published ahead of print December 5, 2013, DOI: 10.2215/CJN.04960513

Related Stories

Kidney patients may gain from less salt

January 31, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Reducing salt consumption may help prolong the lives of patients with chronic kidney disease, a study from The University of Queensland study has found

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.