A new analysis indicates that by 2013, cardiovascular deaths attributed to reduced kidney function outnumbered kidney failure deaths throughout the world. The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), provide insights on the true impact of kidney disease on societies and underscore the importance of screening for kidney disease.

To understand the impact of chronic kidney disease on cardiovascular health, Bernadette Thomas MD, MS, University of Washington, along with dozens of international collaborators as well as the International Society of Nephrology and the Chronic Kidney Disease Prognosis Consortium, estimated the prevalence of chronic kidney disease stages 3, 4, and 5 for 188 countries at six time points from 1990 to 2013. The analysis was part of the Global Burden of Disease Study.

The investigators estimated that in 2013, reduced kidney function was associated with 4% of deaths worldwide, or 2.2 million deaths. More than half (1.2 million) of these attributable deaths were cardiovascular deaths, while 0.96 million were deaths from kidney failure.

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Compared with metabolic risk factors, reduced kidney function ranked below high systolic blood pressure, high body mass index, and high fasting blood sugar and similarly with high total cholesterol as a risk factor for disability-adjusted life years (the number of years lost due to ill-health, disability, or early death) in both developed and developing world regions.

“Understanding the true health impact of kidney disease on society necessitates considering cardiovascular as well as end-stage renal disease deaths and disability,” said Thomas. “This is especially important within the developing world, where the death rate has increased since 1990.”