Heart disease risk predicted from urine test

Sampple tubes being filled

Small amounts of a protein in urine are linked to an increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease, finds a decade-long study, providing the possibility of an early warning check that could save lives.

A decade-long study in Korea, led by Professor Christopher Byrne from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, has revealed a link between low levels of the protein albumin in urine and deaths from cardiovascular disease.

Identifying the link

Using data collected from just over 37,000 middle-aged working adults visiting a clinic in Korea from 2002 to 2012, the researchers found a link between low levels of albumin in daily urine samples and an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and dying of cardiovascular disease.

A standard test for chronic kidney disease, high levels of the blood protein albumin in the urine can indicate that the kidneys, which act as a sieve to filter out waste products from the blood, are damaged and protein is leaking into the urine.

However, this study looked at much smaller amounts of albumin in the urine of people who were relatively healthy and didn’t have kidney disease, at concentrations below the level considered to be harmful.

Preventing deaths

Cardiovascular disease encompasses all diseases of the heart and circulation, and is responsible for more than a quarter (26%) of all deaths in the UK - nearly 160,000 deaths each year.  

For the first time, this research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, shows that low levels of albumin in urine are an indicator of increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

It raises the possibility of using a urine test to detect the early stages of heart disease, enabling preventative measures to be taken before it is too late.

Posted on Monday 10 October 2016