People with kidney failure are up to eight times more likely to have a heart attack and up to four times more likely to have a stroke than those without, a new study suggests.

An analysis of kidney patient failure data over 20 years by the British Heart Foundation Scotland indicated that people with kidney failure have a higher risk of dying as a result.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal on Friday, also suggested women have a greater risk than men.

However, researchers found cheap and simple treatment strategies could help improve survival rates for people with kidney failure who have had a heart attack or stroke.

The research revealed that over 40% of patients who were not prescribed dual anti-platelet drugs died of a heart-related problem within a year whereas the figure dropped to nearly 14% for those who were given the medications.

Anti-platelet drugs are commonly prescribed to the general population after a heart attack or stroke to prevent blood clotting.

It is estimated that over 600,000 people in Scotland are affected by chronic kidney disease, a long-term progressive condition where the kidneys don’t work as well as they should.

Around 5,500 people in Scotland are currently being treated for kidney failure, the final stage of the disease.

Kidney disease patients are at higher risk of heart attacks or strokes than the general population, the British Heart Foundation said.

Their risk increases as their kidney function declines and is highest in patients with kidney failure.

It is the first study to assess whether heart attack and stroke rate treatments and survival had improved for kidney failure patients over 20 years.

The researchers used anonymised healthcare data from more than 16,000 Scottish kidney failure patients from 1996 to 2016.

Heart attack and stroke rates halved in kidney failure patients over the 20 years and the number of deaths because of them also fell.

But the drop lagged behind the large decreases seen in the rest of the population, the study said and as a result, the gap is now bigger than it was 20 years ago – even more so for women compared to men.

David McColgan, head of British Heart Foundation Scotland, which funded the research, said: “This wide-ranging data study is a great example of the world-leading research into heart and circulatory diseases coming out of Scotland, that we are proud to support.

“There are over 20,000 hospital admissions for heart attack or stroke in Scotland each year, and many thousands more people here live with kidney disease.

“The data shows that, compared to other groups, kidney failure patients’ risk of having a heart attack or stroke remains exceptionally high.

“It is crucial that further research is done to learn more about the link between the two and try to lower this risk.

“Only with the Scottish public’s continuing generosity and support will we be able to keep our life saving work going.”

Professor Bryan Williams, chief scientific and medical officer at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This comprehensive study shows that, despite some improvements in recent decades, kidney failure patients are still at an unacceptably high risk of having a heart attack or stroke, and in some cases dying.

“Over the course of this study, which looks at patient data over 20 years, we have seen great progress in heart attack and stroke prevention and treatment for the wider population.

“But this progress is under threat as premature death rates from heart and circulatory diseases have risen in the UK in the past few years.

“Against this backdrop, much more focused work needs to be done to ensure that kidney failure patients are not left behind when it comes to heart and circulatory disease care.”