If you have chronic kidney disease, you know how rough it can be on your body. Kidney disease can lead to fluid retention that causes your arms and legs to swell, as well as high blood pressure, weakening of the bones, anemia and nerve damage.
Because your kidneys aren’t filtering waste from your blood the way they should, it puts stress on your other organs, including your heart. Chronic kidney disease can raise your risk of cardiovascular disease by two to fifty times. In fact, heart disease is the major cause of death for people with chronic kidney disease.
It can be difficult to separate the causes of kidney disease from its health effects. For instance, high blood pressure and diabetes are responsible for up to two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases. At the same time, chronic kidney disease can also cause high blood pressure and diabetes in people who didn’t have — or didn’t know they had — those conditions before developing kidney disease.
To make things even more complicated, the two primary causes of chronic kidney disease are also part of a wider group of conditions known as metabolic syndrome. Key components of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance, obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated levels of cholesterol or triglycerides and low levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, in the blood. People with metabolic syndrome face a higher risk of cardiovascular events and death from all causes.
Unfortunately, researchers are finding that chronic kidney disease sufferers are much more likely to develop metabolic syndrome as well. And their research shows the combination could be a heart health disaster…
Kidney disease plus metabolic syndrome equals trouble
Researchers observed 5,110 adults from the German Chronic Kidney Disease study and found 64.3 percent of them also had metabolic syndrome. During the 6.5 years of follow-up, 605 patients died and 650 suffered a major cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.
Based on the data, the researchers determined the chronic kidney disease patients with metabolic syndrome had a 26 percent higher risk of dying and a 48 percent higher risk of experiencing cardiovascular events. And the more components of metabolic syndrome the patient had, the higher these risks rose.
The metabolic syndrome components measured in the study include increased waist circumference, blood sugar levels, triglycerides and blood pressure, as well as a decrease in HDL (or “good”) cholesterol.
A stunning 97.8 percent of all chronic kidney disease patients participating in the study had high blood pressure, while 67.6 percent of the patients had a large waist circumference measurement in line with metabolic syndrome (102 centimeters or higher in men and 88 centimeters or higher in women). A little over half the patients had elevated blood sugar, and a little under half had high triglycerides. Decreased HDL levels were present in 36.3 percent of all patients.
When looking only at those with metabolic syndrome, those percentages took a big jump upward. Nearly all the patients with metabolic syndrome (99.7 percent) had high blood pressure, while the percentage of those with a high waist circumference soared to 88.9 percent. About 71.6 percent of chronic kidney disease patients with metabolic syndrome had high blood glucose, 69.7 percent had elevated triglycerides, and 53.7 percent had decreased HDL levels.
“Although our study uncovered a shockingly high frequency of metabolic syndrome in this high-risk patient group, there’s a motivating message for our patients: each metabolic syndrome component avoided might considerably decrease the risk for a cardiovascular endpoint or premature death,” says senior author Dr. Florian Kronenberg of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria.
Can kidney disease sufferers avoid metabolic syndrome?
Given that two metabolic factors — high blood pressure and diabetes — are major causes of chronic kidney disease, you may think it’s already too late to avoid developing metabolic syndrome. But that’s not true. Many of the steps you need to take to manage your kidney disease will also help stave off metabolic syndrome.
For instance, if you already have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and/or high triglycerides, make sure the conditions are being properly managed. And if you’re suffering from obesity — another metabolic risk factor — it’s imperative for your health that you lose weight.
The good news is the heart-healthy DASH diet that’s often recommended for people with chronic kidney disease can help tremendously with these metabolic syndrome factors. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, and its emphasis on low salt intake and eating foods containing potassium, calcium and magnesium has been known to lower blood pressure in as little as 14 days.
Because the DASH diet also requires the elimination of processed foods, packaged snacks and added sugars, it can also help manage diabetes if you have it, or significantly lower your risk of developing diabetes if you don’t. And its focus on choosing lean meats and fish as well as eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains can help lower LDL and total cholesterol.
Although obesity management isn’t a specific focus of the DASH diet, participants in studies using the DASH diet found they lost weight while on the diet.
As far as supplements go, we’ve written before about how Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) can help support the health of both your heart and kidneys. Studies have shown CoQ10 supplementation can significantly reduce LDL and total cholesterol and reduce the levels of two chemicals associated with kidney dysfunction, thus helping to improve the metabolic profile of people with kidney disease.
Editor’s note: Uncover the myths surrounding hypertension and get the truth about easy, effective strategies for controlling blood pressure. Click here to discover Natural Ways to Reverse and Prevent Hypertension!
Association of the metabolic syndrome with mortality and major adverse cardiac events: A large chronic kidney disease cohort — Journal of Internal Medicine
Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) Symptoms and causes — National Kidney Foundation
Nutrition and Kidney Disease, Stages 1-4 — National Kidney Foundation