Kidney stones in childhood raise the risk of atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – as shown in a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. A more profound understanding of the link between kidney stones and atherosclerosis in children can offer better prevention methods to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other vascular diseases.
Previously believed to be an isolated health condition, kidney stones are becoming increasingly common in children. Research has found a link between kidney stones and atherosclerosis in adults, but this is the first study to examine the link in children.
Lead author Kirsten Kusumi said, “If the processes of kidney stone formation and hardening of the arteries are somehow linked in adults, it makes sense that a similar link may exist in children, despite the fact that people don’t associate heart and vascular diseases with kids. We wanted to learn whether and why children who have kidney stones may already be showing damage to their arteries.”
The study used ultrasounds to compare and evaluate artery thickness in 15 children with kidney stones and 15 without. None of the children were diagnosed with conditions known to contribute to atherosclerosis, thus revealing the association between damage to the arteries and childhood kidney stones.
The researchers found significant increase in thickness in the right artery compared to the left, which could be a potential risk factor for cardiovascular complications among children with the kidney stones.
Dr. Kusumi added, “Our findings suggest that there is something going on in the body related to kidney stone formation that also impacts the health of children’s arteries. Now that we have a clear indication that the association between kidney stones and arterial thickening or hardening begins in childhood, we can take steps as clinicians to treat these vascular symptoms or implement preventive measures, such as exercise and diet programs.”
Although a link has been found between kidney stones and hardening of the arteries, the exact reason why atherosclerosis occurs in kidney stones is still unknown. Principle investigator Andrew Schwaderer explained, “It could be that different types of kidney stones have different causes and even different risk factors. If we can determine what is going on in the body to cause both kidney stones and atherosclerosis, we may be able to simultaneously target or treat both conditions.”
Dr. Kusumi concluded, “Our ultimate goal is to help practitioners identify and treat childhood kidney stones with improved accuracy and attention to a child’s overall health. Long term, we hope to improve these children’s cardiac morbidity and mortality as is done for other diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. If kidney stones are putting children at risk for serious cardiovascular problems as adults, we need to know sooner rather than later, so that we can intervene and make a difference in their future health.”
Prevent kidney stones with these tips
Kidney stones are described as an incredibly painful condition – some even say it is worse than childbirth! For that reason alone – aside from the other complications they can bring – it’s important to prevent kidney stones by following these tips:
- Avoid excess sweating – or keep yourself hydrated when sweating. All that fluid loss contributes to kidney stones.
- Combine calcium and oxalate foods together during meals, so they bind together and thus don’t lead to stones. Oxalate foods include fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains, legumes, chocolate, and tea.
- Don’t reduce calcium, but reduce sodium instead.
- Stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluid.
- Consume less animal protein.
- Be cautious with calcium supplements.
Speak to your doctor about any concerns you may have regarding kidney stones and what you can do to lower your own risk.
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