Cardiovascular Disease

someone getting their blood pressure

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Continued efforts are needed to understand CVD risk factors and new avenues for prevention.

The School of Public Health Division of Epidemiology & Community Health focuses on CVD epidemiologic research, including observational studies and individual- and group-randomized trials. We are known around the globe for our work in CVD epidemiology, providing a strong evidence-base regarding how to reduce the burden of CVD in our society.  Our research projects evaluate behaviors that lead to CVD, novel genetic and non-genetic risk factors for CVD, and outcomes among patients with CVD.

Faculty in our division are also increasingly involved in the emerging field of the human microbiome. The microbiome is broadly defined as the microbes that live on and in our bodies and their collective genomes and gene products. Due to recent technological advances, it is now possible to measure microbial exposures at a new level of resolution than was possible in the past. As a result, we are learning that the microbiome might be involved in the development and prevention of a wide array of diseases infectious and chronic diseases such as diabetes and CVD.

Atherosclerosis risk in communities neurocognitive study (ARIC-NCS)
Pamela Lutsey

This ARIC ancillary study evaluates midlife risk factors for late-life cognitive decline, dementia, brain imaging markers, and physical impairments.


Atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study
Aaron Folsom

ARIC is a large-scale, long-term cohort study that measures associations of established and suspected CVD risk factors with both atherosclerosis and new CVD events — such as myocardial infarction and stroke — in men and women from four diverse communities. Read more about ARIC


Epidemiology of venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (LITE)
Aaron Folsom

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is an understudied cause of morbidity and mortality. This project investigates risk factors for VTE in two carefully conducted prospective epidemiologic studies of African American and white adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).


Cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention training grant
Aaron Folsom

This program prepares fellows for research careers in CVD epidemiology and prevention. Fellows are involved in ongoing studies that have existing databases. They also initiate research on their own, including data collection and analysis. Trainees complete one or more projects for which they bear primary responsibility.


Multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA)
Jim Pankow

This multicenter prospective cohort studies subclinical CVD in multiple racial/ethnic groups and its progression to clinical disease.


Testing a community intervention to increase aspirin use
Russell Luepker

This project evaluates the use of a health systems intervention, against a background of a mass media campaign, designed to improve the appropriate use of aspirin for the prevention of heart attack and stroke in a high-risk adult population. Using the population of the state of Minnesota as a base, it is developing methods to improve appropriate aspirin use at the community level.


Contemporary venous thromboembolism treatment
Pamela Lutsey

This research is using administrative claims data (e.g. MarketScan, Optum) to compare the effectiveness of new versus traditional strategies for the treatment of VTE. Example treatment strategies are inpatient versus outpatient management for acute VTE, and direct oral anticoagulants versus warfarin for primary treatment and secondary prevention.


Epigenetics of successful aging
James Pankow

This study, focused on locus-specific DNA methylation in blood, tests the following hypotheses:

  • Methylation signatures established in middle age are associated with the overall construct of successful aging (i.e., physical, cognitive and functional well-being) assessed more than 20 years later; and that
  • Midlife successful aging patterns of methylation persists in those that successfully age.


Diabetes and prediabetes in older adults
James Pankow

Diabetes is common in older adults but there is major uncertainty regarding how to best identify, treat, and manage diabetes in this population. This study addresses significant controversies in the field regarding the health effects of elevated glucose in older adults. The goal is to provide evidence to inform best practices for screening and clinical management of older adults with prediabetes or diabetes.


Coronary artery risk development in young adults (CARDIA)
Pamela Schreiner

The CARDIA study is a multicenter prospective study of cardiovascular risk factor and disease evolution from young adulthood in the mid-1980s to the present.


The subgingival microbiome and impaired glucose regulation
Ryan Demmer

This is a longitudinal cohort study of 1,100 participants exploring the association between oral microbiota and longitudinal change in glucose and insulin resistance, as well as incident prediabetes. The study also assesses the role of chronic inflammation as a mechanism linking oral microbiota to poor metabolic outcomes.

Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention Research Fellowships
This program is intended to prepare fellows for research careers in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention. Fellows will be involved in ongoing studies having existing databases and will also initiate research, including data collection and analysis, on their own. Trainees complete one or more projects for which they bear primary responsibility

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