Renal function and cardiovascular risk markers in a remote Australian Aboriginal community

Stephen P McDonald, Graeme P Maguire, Wendy E Hoy
Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation 2003, 18 (8): 1555-61

BACKGROUND: Australian Aborigines living in remote areas have exceedingly high rates of renal failure together with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. To examine the basis of this association, we studied markers of renal function and cardiovascular (CV) risk in a coastal Aboriginal community in a remote area of the Northern Territory of Australia. End-stage renal disease (ESRD) incidence rates in that community are 15 times the national non-Aboriginal rate and CV mortality rates in the region are increased 5-fold.

METHODS: A cross-sectional community survey was conducted. Markers of early renal disease examined included urine albumin/creatinine ratio (ACR), serum creatinine concentration and calculated glomerular filtration rate (GFR). CV risk markers included blood pressure as well as measures of glycaemia, diabetes and serum lipids.

RESULTS: The study group included 237 people, 58% of the adult population of the community. The crude prevalence of microalbuminuria (urine ACR: 3.4-33.9 g/mol, 30-299 mg/g) was 31% and of overt albuminuria (urine ACR: >or=34 g/mol, >or=300 mg/g), 13%. The prevalence of overt albuminuria increased with age, but the prevalence of microalbuminuria was greatest in the 45-54 year age group. Microalbuminuria was associated with increasing body mass index, whereas overt albuminuria was associated with increasing glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) and systolic blood pressure and a history of diabetes. The prevalence of elevated serum creatinine concentration (>or=120 micromol/l) was 10%. GFR (calculated using the MDRD equation) was <60 ml/min/1.73 m(2) in 12% and 60-79 ml/min/1.73 m(2) in a further 36% of the study population. Although many people with albuminuria had well preserved GFRs, mean GFR was lower in people with higher levels of albuminuria.

CONCLUSIONS: The high prevalence of markers of renal disease in this community was consistent with their high rates of ESRD. The distribution of microalbuminuria suggested a 'cohort effect', representing a group who will progress to overt albuminuria. The powerful association of renal disease markers with CV risk factors confirms a strong link between renal and CV disease in the early, asymptomatic stages of each. Thus, pathologic albuminuria, in part, might be a manifestation of the metabolic/haemodynamic syndrome and both conditions might arise out of a common menu of risk factors. Hence, a single agenda of primary and secondary intervention may benefit both.

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