Cystatin C: Supercharging your Kidney Health and Longevity

Cystatin C is a more reliable marker of kidney function than creatinine. Get your cystatin C level tested regularly to detect issues early and keep your kidneys healthy.

Kidneys are the unsung heroes of longevity. For decades doctors tested creatinine to evaluate kidney function, but emerging research shows that cystatin C is a superior biomarker.

With ~500,000 Singaporeans have kidney disease, optimising your kidney health is crucial.

Read on to learn what cystatin C is, why it matters more than creatinine, how often to test it, ideal levels to target, and lifestyle changes to optimize this vital kidney biomarker for longevity.

TLDR: Cystatin C is a more reliable marker of kidney health and longevity than creatinine.

  • Kidneys filter waste from the blood and produce hormones that regulate blood pressure.
  • Cystatin C, unlike creatinine, is not affected by age, muscle bulk, or diet.
  • Higher cystatin C levels likely indicate worse kidney function.
  • Get your cystatin C level tested periodically, especially if you have risk factors for kidney disease.
  • Make lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and controlling high blood pressure to keep your cystatin C level in a healthy range.

Why Kidney Function Matters for Longevity

Healthy kidneys are vital for:

  • Filtering waste and toxins from your blood
  • Regulating your blood pressure
  • Synthesis of Vitamin D
  • Production of red blood cells
  • Balancing your body's electrolytes and fluids

As you age, your kidney function naturally declines, reducing their ability to filter effectively.

Moreover, diabetes and high blood pressure are major causes of kidney disease; Singapore ranks among the highest in the world for diabetes induced kidney failure.

It's essential to monitor your kidney health and take action to safeguard your future.

What is Cystatin C?

Cystatin C is produced at a constant rate by all nucleated cells in the body and filtered freely by the kidneys.

Cystatin C Is a Better Marker of Kidney Function Than Creatinine

Cystatin C is a more sensitive biomarker for detecting changes in kidney function compared to creatinine, the traditional marker.

Independent of Muscle Mass

For creatinine, lower muscle mass can falsely lower levels, while higher muscle mass can falsely indicate kidney disease.

Cystatin C is produced by all nucleated cells, so its levels are not affected by muscle mass or diet. This makes it ideal for monitoring kidney function in the athletic, elderly, obese or malnourished.

Creatinine, on the other hand, is influenced by factors like muscle mass, diet, and exercise, limiting its accuracy.

Earlier Detection of Kidney Decline

Cystatin C can spot declining kidney function at an earlier stage than creatinine, allowing for timely treatment and management.

Lees JS, Rutherford E, Stevens KI, et al. Assessment of Cystatin C Level for Risk Stratification in Adults With Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA Netw Open. 2022;5(10):e2238300.

According to studies, cystatin C is more sensitive for detecting mild to moderate kidney disease.

More Predictive of Other Health Risks

Malcolm West, Adrienne Kirby, Ralph A. Stewart, et al. Circulating Cystatin C Is an Independent Risk Marker for Cardiovascular Outcomes, Development of Renal Impairment, and Long‐Term Mortality in Patients With Stable Coronary Heart Disease: The LIPID Study. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2022;11:e020745

Some studies show that higher cystatin C levels are associated with greater risks of kidney disease progression, cardiovascular events and mortality.

Ideal Cystatin C Levels for Healthspan and Longevity

To optimize your kidney health and longevity, maintaining an ideal level of cystatin C is critical.

Ideal: 0.62-1.15 mg/dL

At this range, your kidney health is optimal, and filtering cystatin C from your blood at an ideal rate.

How Often You Should Test Cystatin C Levels

Annual Screening for Most Adults

For the general population of working adults interested in optimizing their kidney health and longevity, annual screening of cystatin C levels is recommended.

6-12 Months for At-Risk Groups

Certain individuals may require more frequent cystatin C testing, such as every 6-12 months.

This includes those with diabetes, hypertension, or a family history of kidney disease.

Frequent testing in these at-risk groups allows for closer monitoring, slowing the progression of kidney damage through proactive treatment and management.

Testing in Response to Lifestyle or Health Changes

Major changes in diet, exercise, medication use, or health status may also warrant re-testing cystatin C levels.

For example, initiating a high-protein diet or supplement regimen could impact kidney function, as could taking certain medications like diuretics or ACE inhibitors.

On the other hand, losing a significant amount of weight or improving blood pressure control may benefit kidney health, which follow-up testing could confirm.

Mito Health's flagship package, priced at $499, offers testing for Cystatin C as well as 66 other carefully curated biomarkers that allows for early detection of cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes and more. 

In addition to testing, you will receive:

  • personalized health optimization plan from our doctors incorporating supplements, nutrition, exercise and sleep strategies
  • discounted pricing for specialized additional tests
  • access to exclusive health and longevity events.

Lifestyle Changes to Optimize Cystatin C Levels

Dietary Changes

The foods you eat can have a significant impact on your cystatin C levels and kidney health. A balanced diet low in sugar, salt, and red meat is recommended. Increase your intake of the following kidney-friendly foods:

  • Plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, and nuts. These provide protein without the high amounts of phosphorus found in meat and dairy.
  • Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants such as blueberries, cranberries, and leafy greens. Antioxidants help prevent cell damage in the kidneys.
  • Healthy fats such as olive oil, flax seeds, and fatty fish. These provide anti-inflammatory effects and help reduce cholesterol buildup.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Proper hydration is essential for kidney health and managing cystatin C levels.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise provides many benefits for kidney health and cystatin C optimization. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Recommended exercises include:

  • Walking, jogging, biking, and swimming. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the kidneys.
  • Yoga or Tai Chi. Gentle stretches and balance exercises reduce stress and improve flexibility and strength.
  • High intensity interval training (HIIT) 2-3 times a week. Short periods of intense exercise followed by recovery periods promote kidney health. Always check with your doctor before starting any intensive exercise program.

Reduce Stress

Chronic stress can negatively impact your kidneys and cystatin C levels.

  • Try relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or journaling.
  • Limit unhealthy habits such as excessive alcohol or tobacco use, which further damage the kidneys.
  • Getting enough sleep, spending time with loved ones, and engaging in hobbies are other excellent ways to lower your stress levels.

Making long term changes to diet, exercise, and stress management are the keys to optimizing your cystatin C levels and supporting overall kidney health and longevity.

Conclusion

You now have a comprehensive understanding of why cystatin C is a superior marker of kidney function and overall health compared to creatinine. By proactively monitoring cystatin C and keeping it in the optimal range, you can take control of your kidney health and longevity.

At Mito Health, we specialize in advanced health diagnostics to test your Cystatin C levels (along with 66 other biomarkers) - to form a science-based, personalized health plan to help you optimize your health. Sign up for our flagship package today to take control of your health and your future. 

Written By
J. Hsu
February 16, 2024
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