Feb. 2, 2022

UCalgary researchers link fertility hormone to risk of heart disease in women with chronic kidney disease

Sandra Dumanski is hopeful the discovery may be useful in predicting and treating cardiovascular disease
Sanda Dumanski with a patient.
Sandra Dumanski recently published a paper linking fertility hormone to increased risk of cardiovascular disease in women with chronic kidney disease. Dawn Smith, Libin Cardiovascular Institute

Young women are disproportionately impacted by cardiovascular disease. In fact, they are the only group whose rate of heart attack is on the rise. They are also more likely to die of a heart attack than men. 

Those with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at an even greater risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease. There is limited research into cardiovascular risks, such as menstrual abnormalities and infertility, that are unique to young women of reproductive age. 

Dr. Sandra Dumanski, MD, a kidney doctor and researcher at the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute, wants to make a difference for the one in eight Canadian women of reproductive age with CKD. 

“Women in their '30s and '40s are having more heart attacks, and the incidence is higher than it was 20 years ago,” says Dumanski. “Research in this area is critical.”

Sandra Dumanski

Sandra Dumanski.

Libin Cardiovascular Institute

Dumanski led a team of Libin Institute researchers who recently published a paper in Physiological Reports that looked at whether reduced anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH), a fertility hormone that has been linked to poor cardiovascular outcomes in the general population, has the same impact on the cardiovascular systems of young women with CKD. 

Researchers looked at women with CKD, both on and off dialysis, and found lower AMH levels are associated with decreased function of arteries, the blood vessels responsible for carrying blood from the heart. This reduced arterial function, in turn, is a strong predictor of future cardiovascular disease. 

Dumanski explains that as women age, their AMH levels, which are used to measure ovarian reserve, naturally drop. As this occurs, a woman’s risk of heart attack increases. 

“This study revealed that young women with CKD have lower AMH levels for their age than their healthy counterparts,” says Dumanski. 

Although more investigation into precisely how AMH impacts cardiovascular risk is needed, Dumanski says the study provides hope that the hormone may be an important marker for future cardiovascular risk in this already high-risk population. 

“AMH may be able to predict future cardiovascular risk,” says Dumanski. “If the hormone itself is important in keeping the blood vessels healthy, maybe it could also be used as a treatment target.” 

This study was funded by the Nephrology Research Group at the University of Calgary.

Sandra Dumanski is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Cumming School of Medicine and a member of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute.