Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Research

CVD Training Fellowship
This NIH-sponsored fellowship offers training and research opportunities to selected PhD students and post-doctoral fellows interested in the causes and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.
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Contact: Aaron Folsom

While the rate of deaths from cardiovascular disease (CVD) has been on the decline, improved survival has resulted in significant new cases and cost to the health care system in our rapidly aging society. Thus the goal of CVD epidemiology is to investigate and promote cardiovascular health, and to prevent and reduce CVD.

Traditionally, cardiovascular disease epidemiology has been concerned with causes of heart disease.

In recent years, prevention by modification of lifestyle and behavior have been tested and found very effective. In addition, new methods to detect disease while subclinical, that is, in its early stages, have strengthened our studies of antecedent risk factors.

Researchers at EpiCH investigate the distribution and causes of CVD and study the influence of: They also explore the impact of health behaviors such as:
  • high blood cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • blood clotting
  • menopause
  • genetic variants
  • obesity and weight gain
  • fat distribution/ patterning
  • smoking
  • diet
  • physical inactivity
  • psychosocial stressors
  • education
  • geocoding and neighborhoods

Highlighted Studies

Telomere Length Dynamics in Relation to Changes in Adiposity and Metabolic Risk
Principal Investigator:  Ellen Demerath
Funding Agency:  NIH

ARIC Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS)
Principal Investigator:  Aaron R. Folsom
Funding Agency: NIH/NHLBI
ARIC-NCS renewal (2015-20189) will study cognitive decline at old age and the transition from mild-cognitive impairment to dementia. It builds on the initial phase of the study (2010-2014), which related midlife risk factors (measured at age 45-65 years) to cognitive decline over the next 25 years when detailed data was collected on cognition, cardiovascular status on 6500 people with brain MRI data on 2,000 individuals.

Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study
Principal Investigator:  Aaron R. Folsom
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
ARIC is a large-scale, long-term program that will measure associations of established and suspected coronary heart disease risk factors (CHD) with both atherosclerosis and new CHD events such as myocardial infarction in men and women from four diverse communities.

Epidemiology of Venous Thrombosis & Pulmonary Embolism (LITE)
Principal Investigator:  Aaron R. Folsom
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
This project will efficiently investigate venous thromboembolism 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).

Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)
Principal Investigator:  Aaron R. Folsom
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
The University of Minnesota will provide the following:  follow-up of Minnesota MESA participants, ascertainment and investigation of medical events, re-consent and re-examination of the participants, analysis and publication of MESA results, and collaboration on all relevant aspects of the project.

Epidemiology, Oxidative Stress and Early Atherosclerosis
Principal Investigator:  David R. Jacobs, Jr.
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
Atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease are major public health concerns and remain major causes of death in the United States. A major etiologic factor may be oxidative damage. The YALTA, Young Adult Longitudinal Trends in Antioxidants, study will continue to identify oxidation-related factors in young and middle-aged adults and their association with subclinical and clinical cardiovascular disease.

Testing a Community Intervention to Increase Aspirin Use
Principal Investigator: Russell V. Luepker
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
This project will evaluate 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 will develop methods to improve appropriate aspirin use at the community level.

Vitamin D, Cerebrovascular Risk, and Neurocognitive Decline: ARIC Brain MRI Study
Principal Investigator:  Pamela L. Lutsey
Funding Agency:  NIH/NINDS
Investigators at the University of Minnesota ARIC Field Center will coordinate the laboratory oversight at the Minnesota Fairview Laboratory for performing analysis of the 25-hydroxyvitamin D and related assays (calcium, phosphate, PTH) in approximately 1950 requested samples.

Serum Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in the Biethnic ARIC Cohort
Principal Investigator:  Pamela L. Lutsey
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
A large proportion of the population (40-60%) has low levels of vitamin D, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This research aims to clarify the relation of vitamin D to cardiovascular disease. Given that it is possible to correct low vitamin D levels through increased sunlight exposure and/or dietary supplementation, the findings of this study may have major implications for cardiovascular disease prevention.

Comparative Effectiveness of Oral Anticoagulants in Atrial Fibrillation
Principal Investigator:  Pamela L. Lutsey
Funding Agency: NIH/NHLBI
Limited information exists on the “real-world” effectiveness of new oral anticoagulants compared to warfarin in the treatment of patients with atrial fibrillation, a common cardiac arrhythmia. The proposed research will provide timely and necessary information to help clinicians and patients make well-founded decisions on the use and choice of oral anticoagulants. Our project will complement information from published phase III randomized controlled trials of new oral anticoagulants.

Genetic Epidemiology of Casual Variants Across the Life Course – Phase II
Principal Investigator: James S. Pankow
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI

Diabetes and Prediabetes in Older Adults
Principal Investigator: James S. Pankow
Funding Agency:  NIH/NIDDK
Diabetes is common in older adults but there are major uncertainty regarding how to best identify, treat, and manage diabetes in this population. This study will address major controversies in the field regarding the health effects of elevated glucose in older adults. The overarching goal of this application 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)
Principal Investigator:  Pamela J. Schreiner
Funding Agency: NIH/NHLBI
The CARDIA study will conduct its Year 15 follow-up exam during 2000-2001, anticipating 77% retention of the original cohort selected in 1985.

Determinants of Midlife and Longitudinal Change in Cognitive Function:  CARDIA Study
Principal Investigator: Pamela J. Schreiner
Funding Agency:  NIH
This study has great public health relevance: if we can increase our understanding of cognitive function in midlife and identify earlier risk factors extending from early adulthood, it may be possible to intervene to prevent the onset of disease and maintain healthy brain aging.

10-Year Change in Objectively-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior
Principal Investigator:  Pamela J. Schreiner
Funding Agency:  NIH
This study will collect a second round of accelerometer-based measurements of physical activity and sedentary behavior, 10 years after the Year 20 CARDIA exam, as well as measures of physical function. These measurements will be collected in the first large cardiovascular cohort study to examine changes in physical activity and sedentary behavior during midlife, using an objective measure. It is highly significant in terms of understanding the role of physical activity & sedentary behavior in disease prevention & healthy aging.

Identifying Epidemiological Risk Factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Principal Investigator:  Weihong Tang
Funding Agency:  NIH/NHLBI
Data from this study will provide new insights in the biological determinants of AAA, and potentially improve prevention and early management of AAA to prevent ruptures.

Past CVD Research