Kidney patients: protecting your heart

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Researchers are testing a new therapy that would help protect a kidney patient's heart. (KFSN)

Many of us may not be aware of this, but research shows a link between kidney disease and cardiovascular problems. In fact, of the 20 million Americans diagnosed with kidney disease, more than half will die from heart disease. Now, researchers are testing a new therapy that would help protect a kidney patient's heart.

Sixty-six year-old David MacKenzie gets a workout most days, even if it's just a quick, brisk walk. He's tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle for most of his adult life.

MacKenzie told ABC30, "Early on, probably in my mid to late 30s, I began to have elevated blood pressure."

MacKenzie didn't know it growing up, but he and one of his sisters would also develop polycystic kidney disease, an inherited condition that affects kidney function.

Jeanie Park, MD, MS, Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta explained, "Even though it's adaptive to have this fight or flight response in the situation when you need it, if it's revved up all the time, then it's not good for your body."

Dr. Park found that a drug already FDA-approved for a metabolic disorder, dials down the adrenaline levels in kidney patients. It's called tetrahydrobiopterin.

Dr. Park studied 32 men with moderate kidney disease, and found a decrease in sympathetic nerve activity in those who took the drug for 12 weeks.

Dr. Park said, "It could be a novel way of reducing cardiovascular risk and potentially reducing blood pressure in patients with hypertension or chronic kidney disease."

For patients like David MacKenzie, that would mean managing just one chronic condition, kidney disease, instead of two.

Right now, doctors use beta blockers and another drug, clonidine, to treat high blood pressure and the over-activation in the sympathetic nervous system. Dr. Park says those drugs are often hard for patients to tolerate.

For more information on this report, please contact:

Quinn Eastman
Emory Health Sciences Communications
404-727-7829
qeastma@emory.edu
Related Topics:
healthhealth watchhealth careheart disease
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