Rise in acid levels linked to heart disease & stroke

By June Shannon Heart News   |   19th Jun 2018

Lifestyle factors such as obesity and consumption of sugary drinks have driven up levels of uric acid

One in four Irish patients have elevated blood levels of uric acid, a by-product of the body’s metabolism associated with heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and kidney disease, a new study has revealed.

The study by researchers from the Graduate Entry Medical School (GEMS) at the University of Limerick, has found that uric acid levels in Ireland increased at an “alarming” rate from 2006 to 2014.

Uric acid is a waste product produced when the body breaks down purines found in many foods, drinks and alcohol. High blood levels of uric acid is associated with conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and kidney disease.

Uric acid levels in Ireland increased at an “alarming” rate from 2006 to 2014.

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About 30 per cent of uric acid production is attributable to diet and lifestyle factors such obesity and food intake, especially foods containing fructose such as sugary drinks.

In the Health Research Board supported study of more than 128,000 patients in the Irish health system, researchers found that uric acid levels increased by 21 per cent over a nine-year period, with increases seen in all age groups from young adults to the very elderly.

Senior author of the study Professor Austin Stack, Foundation Chair of Medicine at GEMS and Consultant Nephrologist at University Hospital Limerick said, “What we found was astonishing.”

“In 2006 just over one fifth of all patients (20.1 per cent) were estimated to have elevated uric acid levels in their blood. By 2014, this number had increased to almost one quarter (24.5%).”

While this was not a national random sample, it included a very large group of patients from all groups within the health system.

"Excessive uric acid production is a biochemical signal that something is going wrong with the body.”

Professor Austin Stack, GEMS, University of Limerick

“We identified rising levels of uric acid in every subgroup of patients and in all clinical settings between 2006-2014; whether they attended outpatient clinics, were hospitalised as inpatients, or visited their GP in general practice,” said Professor Stack.

According to Prof Stack, high levels of uric acid are directly linked to the development of several major diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, heart attacks and strokes. Rising blood levels of uric acid mean that more patients are at risk of these serious conditions.”

The increases have taken place too rapidly to be explained by genetic changes, said Prof Stack.

“These steep increases in a nine-year period are more likely to be linked to lifestyle factors. Excessive uric acid production is a biochemical signal that something is going wrong with the body.”

"Evidence would suggest that high levels of uric acid are detrimental to an individual’s health especially cardiovascular health and kidney health,"

Professor Austin Stack, GEMS, University of Limerick

Speaking to the Irish Heart Foundation, Prof Stack said there was substantial evidence linking increased levels of uric acid to the development of high blood pressure and raised levels of uric acid also predicted the occurrence of future heart attacks and strokes.

“Collectively, the merging body of evidence would suggest that high levels of uric acid are detrimental to an individual’s health especially cardiovascular health and kidney health. Measures to reduce uric acid levels in the general population should be pursued in the first instance with modification of lifestyle factors (such as tackling obesity and reducing alcohol intake).”

Uric acid levels can be managed using a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

The study “Temporal trends in hyperuricaemia in the Irish health system from 2006-2014: A cohort study is published by PLOS One. 

 

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