THURSDAY, July 8 (HealthDay News) -- A person's heart beat may offer insight into their future kidney health, a new study suggests.
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A high resting heart rate and low beat-to-beat heart rate variability were noted in study patients with an increased risk for kidney disease, according to a report released online July 8 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
The finding suggests that dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system -- which regulates involuntary body functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and stress response -- may be a marker for late development of certain types of kidney disease, explained Dr. Daniel Brotman of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and colleagues, in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.
Previous studies have suggested a link between autonomic nervous system dysfunction (dysautonomia) and chronic kidney disease and its progression.
Brotman's team analyzed heart and kidney data from 13,241 U.S. adults, aged 45 to 64, enrolled in a long-term study of atherosclerosis risk. In general, a low resting heart rate and greater beat-to-beat variability in heart rate indicate a healthy autonomic nervous system and good cardiovascular health.
The researchers found that people with a high resting heart rate had a twofold increased risk of developing kidney failure years later, and those with a lower beat-to-beat variability in heart rate had a 1.5-times increased risk.
Brotman and colleagues noted that this does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship, but they speculated that problems in the autonomic nervous system may damage blood vessels in and around the kidneys.
"We hope our findings will encourage further research to better define the putative role of the autonomic nervous system in precipitating and exacerbating renal [kidney] disease in humans," the authors wrote. "This, in turn, may ultimately lead to novel therapeutic approaches once the mechanisms for our findings are better characterized."
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: American Society of Nephrology, news release, July 8, 2010