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Cause of Gout May Also Predict Heart Failure

Posted Sep 15 2009 10:20pm

A researcher looking at the relationship between gout and heart attacks has discovered that there is a relationship between high uric acid levels and heart failure.

Eswar Krishnan, MD, assistant professor of immunology and rheumatology at Stanford University School of Medicine, has conducted a new study looking into just what that relationship is.

Uric acid naturally occurs in the body as a byproduct of many different foods. High levels are best known as a cause of gout.

“Our study shows that high levels of uric acid significantly increase your risk of developing heart failure later in life,” said Dr. Krishnan. “The novelty is that the test for measuring this is very cheap and easily available.”

In fact, a simple $2-blood test may allow doctors to determine whether a patient is at risk of developing heart failure sometime in their future.

Dr. Krishnan analyzed data obtained from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute participants of the Framingham Offspring cohort study. That study began in 1971 and the participants were followed for cardiovascular events for 25 years.

Dr. Krishnan was looking for the relationship between high uric acid levels (levels above 6 mg per one-tenth liter) and subsequent heart failure.

There were 4,989 participants in the Framingham Offspring study, and of those, 4,912 were eligible for Dr. Krishnan’s study. There were 196 cases of heart failure recorded.

After adjusting for a long list of variables including smoking, weight, alcohol use, diabetes, kidney problems and use of anti-hypertensive medications, Dr. Krishnan found the occurrence of heart failure was significantly higher among those with high uric acid levels.

The use of a simple blood test that is currently available to physicians to determine a patient’s chances of developing heart failure could be an effective screening tool, Dr. Krishnan said. It could help doctors target younger patients who should aggressively reduce other treatable risk factors for heart failure, such as hypertension or obesity.

On the other hand, he noted that it’s not known whether medications that reduce uric acid levels could help reduce future heart failure cases. Future studies could explore this, Krishnan said.

The study appears online in August in the journal Circulation: Heart Failure.

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