For Women, Kidney Stones Could Mean Heart Disease in the Future

New York, NY (November 30, 2013) – Women without a history of heart disease are more likely to develop coronary heart disease (CHD) if they had a kidney stone in the past, according to new research.

Kidney stones have been linked to chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, gout, and even kidney failure; but now researchers have found there may be a link to heart attacks and the need to undergo revascularization surgery.

"Clearly, kidney stones and the development of CHD are linked in women," said Dr. David Goldfarb, a kidney stone expert at New York Harbor VA Medical Center and NYU School of Medicine, whose commentary on kidney stones and heart disease was published in the December issue of the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases. "We don't think that kidney stones are the cause of coronary heart disease, but it is likely that stones share risk factors with CHD, just like they do with diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and other conditions."

In one study of more than 90,000 women, those who had kidney stones were 20% more likely to develop CHD within 18 years. Another study of more than 106,000 women found they were 50% more likely to have a heart attack or undergo heart surgery within 18 years if they had previously reported stones. However, the same correlation was not found in a survey of more than 45,000 men.

"We really don't know why this association is stronger in women than in men, if it's present at all in men," said Dr. Goldfarb. "But this study indicates that women should be aware that a kidney stone could be a risk factor for more serious health problems. Although the results were not statistically significant in men, I think men would do well to pay attention to this relationship as well."

The research linking kidney stones to CHD was conducted by Dr. Pietro Manuel Ferraro, of Columbus-Gemelli Hospital, Rome, and appeared in the 24/31 issue of theJournal of the American Medical Association.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, the incidence of kidney stones in the U.S. has increased rapidly over the past 30 years. In the late 1970s, less than 4% of the population reported kidney stones. It is now estimated that 10% of all men will experience kidney stones, while 7 percent of women will develop kidney stones.

"This research reinforces that people who develop kidney stones need to address the underlying contributing factors," said Tom Manley, Director of Scientific Activities at the National Kidney Foundation. "By losing weight, changing diet and exercising, people who have had kidney stones can stop or slow the development of serious associated health conditions."

Kidney stones are one of the more common risk factors for kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Due to their recent connections to chronic and acute health conditions, many professionals are urging patients and physicians to view kidney stones as an overall warning sign.

"Being overweight or having high cholesterol are health issues that many ignore, but if you have those conditions and a kidney stone, it should sound an alarm that it's critical that you make lifestyle changes to improve your future health and reduce the potential to develop CHD," Manley said.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Kidney Stones from the National Kidney Foundation

  • Drink plenty of water, especially at night before bed.
  • If you wake up at night to urinate, drink more water, to dilute urine so stones won't form.
  • Limit sodium intake to 2,000mg per day or less.
  • Increase the proportion of vegetables and fruits in your diet; especially fruits rich in citrate, such as lime and lemon.
  • Lower the amount of animal protein you consume.
  • Opt for low-fat dairy products.
  • Minimize consumption of foods high in oxalates. Oxalate-rich foods include dark-green leafy vegetables such as parsley, kale, beet greens, okra, spinach, and swiss chard. Chocolate, instant coffee, rhubarb, starfruit, wheat germ, soy products, beets, and sweet potatoes are also high in oxalates.
  • Maintain calcium intake close to the recommended daily allowance (1000 mg per day) – too much or too little calcium can promote stone formation.

Multimedia Resources
Embeddable Video: A Registered Dietitian discusses kidney stones and ways to prevent stone formation.

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the leading organization in the U.S. dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease for hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals, millions of patients and their families and tens of millions of Americans at risk. For more information, visit www.kidney.org.