I’ve been reading a good book about the Framingham Heart Study (A Change of Heart, How the People of Framingham, Massachusetts Helped Unravel the Mysteries of Cardiovascular Disease) and yesterday I went to a talk by its author, Daniel Levy, the current director of the study.
I’ve learned some interesting things:
- The study, which began in 1948 and continues to this day, is the first epidemiological study to focus on chronic disease. In the past, such studies were used only to locate sources of outbreaks such as cholera, the plague, and TB
- The term “risk factor” was coined by the original directors of the study in 1961. The study has been responsible for identifying a number of risk factors for heart disease that we take for granted now, including hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity
- The study, which enrolled over 5000 people in the original recruiting cycle, recruited an equal number of the original participants’ children, and then grandchildren. It’s the only study in the world that has data on three generations of people at the same points in their lives (e.g., blood pressure for three generations at age 40)
- The study enrolled an equal number of men and women from the start, although the original motivation was to understand why women didn’t seem to get heart disease. (It turns out they do get it, just later in life)
I recommend the book.April 11, 2005