Kidney stones may be associated with a modest but significantly elevated risk of heart disease, according to a new study presented at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting. The results are consistent with findings from other recent studies and suggest that nephrolithiasis may reflect a systemic vascular disorder. In fact, lead author Brian Eisner, MD, observed that stone disease may be an early marker for heart disease.

“We discovered at least a 15% increased risk of heart disease in patients who had a history of kidney stones,” said Dr. Eisner, a resident in urology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We believe this is important when considering the overall health care and treatment of these patients.”

The researchers analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which included 45,988 men 40-75 years old. A total of 4,747 patients (10.3%) reported a history of stones. After adjusting for confounders, Dr. Eisner’s team found a 15% higher risk for coronary heart disease among subjects with a history of nephrolithiasis compared with men without nephrolithiasis. A history of nephrolithiasis was associated with a 16% increased risk for MI, a 27% increased risk for angina, and a 15% increased risk for coronary artery bypass grafting.

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“These were all highly statistically significant associations,” says Dr. Eisner. “We see stone formers very early in their life. Patients tend to be in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. We should consider possible increased risk of coronary disease in these patients as we care for them long-term.”