Life Expectancy Test: How Urine May Help Determined How Long You Live

03/22/2013 04:13 pm ET

A trip to the restroom can reveal a lot about your overall health, including how long you'll live, according to a recent study published in the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases.

As lead author of the report, Dr. Tanvir Chowdhury Turin of the University of Calgary, explains, calculating the levels of protein in urine can predict a person's lifespan.

In the study -- which involved analyzing over 810,000 men and women 30 to 85 years of age who underwent testing for proteinuria, or excess protein in urine -- researchers found that the higher the amounts of proteinuria each patient had, the shorter their life span. In fact, men without proteinuria outlived those with it by 8.2 years, while women without it outlived those with proteinuria by 10.5 years.

According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, most proteins are too big to pass through the kidneys' filters into the urine. But proteins from the blood can leak into the urine when the filters of the kidney are damaged. The result: Proteinuria. Healthy people, on the other hand, have very low levels of protein in their urine as their kidneys are able to retain most of it for the body.

"There is a striking reduction in life expectancy associated with the severity of proteinuria," Turin said in a release. "We already know that severity of chronic kidney disease is associated with increased risk of adverse outcomes including mortality risk, but the effect of proteinuria on life expectancy has not been estimated before."

African Americans have a higher rate of kidney failure than any other group of people and are three and a half times more likely to have kidney disease than whites, research has shown.

“The diseases that lead to kidney disease, such as high blood pressure or hypertension and diabetes, are much more concentrated in African American populations,” said J. Keith Melancon, former director of the kidney and pancreas transplantation at the Georgetown Transplant Institute, in an interview with The Root last year. “There’s also a genetic factor,” he added, alluding to a 2010 study by scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Universite Libre de Bruxelles, which pinpointed a genetic explanation -- with evolutionary roots -- for the higher incidence of kidney disease among blacks.

Those at high risk of developing kidney disease, including smokers, obese people, African-Americans and Asian Americans, should be tested regularly for proteinuria, Turin and his team concluded.

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