Excess protein in the urine may be a warning sign of a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Find out what a simple urine test checking for protein can tell you.
Could a simple urine test tell you whether you’re at high risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease? Research shows that excess protein in the urine – a condition known as proteinuria – could spell trouble when it comes to the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Are you at high risk?
How is Excess Protein in the Urine Detected?
To check for proteinuria, or elevated protein levels in the urine, a simple dipstick test can be performed. To do this, a strip that’s sensitive for protein is dipped into a urine specimen and any color change is noted. From the color change, it can be roughly determined how much protein is in the urine. If this test is abnormal, a 24 hour urine protein collection can be done to see exactly how much protein there is. Normally, protein is reabsorbed by the kidneys and isn’t found in the urine, but certain types of kidney disease – as well as other causes – can cause protein to appear in a urine specimen. This is commonly seen in patients who have kidney disease from longstanding diabetes.
Elevated Levels of Protein and Heart Disease
In a study that was published in Diabetes Care, researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine found that elevated protein levels in the urine was associated with a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, but more so in white than in black people. It’s believed that excess protein in the urine is a marker for greater calcium deposits in the coronary arteries which can lead to a stroke or heart attack. When they looked at black people they didn’t find this association. It’s not clear why urinary protein predicts the risk of atherosclerosis in whites but not in blacks.
Is Excess Protein in the Urine Always a Problem?
It’s important for everyone to get a urinalysis done at least yearly to check for proteinuria since excess protein in the urine can also be a sign of early kidney disease. Testing is as easy as giving your doctor a urine specimen. There are a variety of factors that can cause protein to temporarily appear in the urine, so having small amounts of urine protein isn’t always serious. If the dipstick test is positive, a 24 hour urine collection and measurement for protein can be done to determine if there’s a significant problem.
What Should You Do if You Have Proteinuria?
If you do have elevated protein levels in the urine, it’s important to follow up with your doctor to make sure it’s not due to kidney disease. Since urine protein can be a sign that you’re at higher risk of atherosclerosis leading to heart disease and stroke, lifestyle changes should be made with a particular emphasis on keeping blood pressure controlled to help ward off further problems. Talk to your doctor about what you need to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.