About a quarter of deaths among women with heart failure (search) can be attributed to kidney problems, new research shows.

And taking a widely available medication may improve outcomes, write lead researcher Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, PhD, MD, with San Francisco General Hospital and the University of California-San Francisco, and colleagues.

Their paper appears in the Oct. 19 issue of Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Heart failure is common among older women and has a high death rate. However, little is known about what puts a woman at risk of dying from the disease.

A Closer Look: Heart Failure, Kidney Problems

Bibbins-Domingo and colleagues analyzed nearly six years of medical records for 700 women with heart failure; 40 percent had severe kidney failure, 20 percent had mild kidney disease.

During that time, 32 percent of the women died.

Interestingly, women with mild kidney problems had more than double the death risk when compared with women with more serious kidney problems, no matter what caused the heart failure to begin with, reports Bibbins-Domingo.

However, women who took a type of medicine called an ACE inhibitor (search) were far less likely to die from their disease than women who didn't take these drugs. In fact, in the group taking ACE inhibitors, the number of deaths was similar to patients with fully functioning kidneys, reports Bibbins-Domingo. ACE inhibitors include Altace, Lotensin, Mavik, Prinivil, Zestril, and others.

"Our study offers preliminary evidence for the beneficial effect of ACE inhibitors on mortality in the setting of mild-to-moderate [kidney failure], write the authors.

By Jeanie Lerche Davis, reviewed by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD

SOURCE: Bibbins-Domingo, K. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Oct. 19, 2004; vol 44: pp 1593-1600.