The research, recently published online in the Journal of Women’s Health, is the first step in showing that women’s baseline fitness level, known as exercise capacity, may strengthen women’s hearts, and may protect them from the effects of damage to their kidneys.
”Both a poor functioning kidney and a low fitness level are separate predictors for an earlier death, this is the first study which noted a higher fitness level means a longer life for women, despite having chronic kidney disease,” said Dr. Martha Gulati, director of preventive cardiology and women’s cardiovascular health at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Although our study has certain limitations, the results give us much to consider for treating women with chronic kidney disease.”
This group of women were free of symptoms of cardiovascular or chronic kidney disease and their health had been tracked since 1992 to help researchers better analyze the impact of fitness on the womens’ health over time.
“Little is known about how to reduce the impact of chronic kidney disease on mortality among women,” said Gulati. “Now that we have shown a high fitness level could help women with this condition live longer, an intervention study is needed to determine what happens to the kidney function if physicians ‘prescribe’ fitness. Could this improve outcomes?”
Previous research had established chronic kidney disease, which affects more than 20 million Americans, is already associated with an increase risk of heart failure.
“People do not often understand the importance of knowing their fitness level or their kidney function. They aren’t aware they have chronic kidney disease because it is often asymptomatic, even though the burden of this disease is growing worldwide,” said Gulati. She said physicians should a simple calculation to estimate GFR determine kidney function, often calculated by the laboratory, but ignored and not recognized as a cardiac risk factor.
Women with a lower eGFR at baseline were older, more likely to be Caucasian, hypertensive, diabetic, non-smokers and have a reduced fitness level.
“Right now we do not have a lot to offer to people with chronic kidney disease in terms of treatment options. Often people are asymptomatic, but heart disease is a more likely outcome than kidney failure,” said Gulati. “When people hear ‘chronic kidney disease’ they think we are talking about kidney failure. We are not. Chronic kidney disease is recognized by the American Heart Association as a ‘high-risk’ state.”
According to Dr. George Bakris of University of Chicago, who was a co-investigator in the study, more research is needed for post-menopausal women who are experiencing a much higher rate of cardiovascular events, blood pressure increase and weight gain. He believes something more is going on with women’s bodies than hormones that has to do with organ function and heart health, including kidney function, that is keeping women from living longer, healthier lives.
This research is funded by The Sarah Ross Soter Endowed Chair at Ohio State’s Ross Heart Hospital.
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Contact: Gina Bericchia, Medical Center Public Affairs & Media Relations, 614-293-3737, Gina.Bericchia@osumc.edu