The Framingham Heart Study

framingham_heartIn 1948, the Framingham Heart Study – under the direction of the National Heart Institute (now known as the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; NHLBI) – embarked on an ambitious project in health research. At the time, little was known about the general causes of heart disease and stroke, but the death rates for cardiovascular disease have been increasing steadily since the beginning of the century and had become an American epidemic. Since 1971, the Framingham Heart Study has been conducted in collaboration with Boston University.

The objective of the Framingham Heart Study was to identify the common factors or characteristics that contribute to cardiovascular disease by following its development over a long period of time in a large group of participants who had not yet developed overt symptoms of cardiovascular disease or suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Original Cohort

The researchers recruited 5,209 men and women between the ages of 30 and 62 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, and began the first round of extensive physical examinations and lifestyle interviews that they would later analyze for common patterns related to cardiovascular disease development. Since 1948, the subjects have continued to return to the study every two years for a detailed medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.

Offspring Cohort

In 1971, the study enrolled a second-generation group – 5,124 of the original participants’ adult children and their spouses – to participate in similar examinations. A Third Generation (the children of the Offspring Cohort) is currently being recruited and examined, seeking to further understand how genetic factors relate to cardiovascular disease. These participants are being given an extensive cardiovascular examination similar to their parents and grandparents. The goal is to recruit and examine 3,500 grandchildren of the original cohort.