The Framingham Heart Study

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Framingham, MassachusettsThe Framingham Heart Study

The Framingham Heart Study has been an ongoing study, since 1948, attempting to identify common risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. The study began with 5,209 men and women between the ages of 30-62 from the town of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study participants return every 2 years for detailed physical examinations, medical history, and lab tests.

The second generation of participants, the off-spring of the original participants, were enrolled in 1971. There were 5,124 of those. The “Omni Cohort” was enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study in 1994 after identifying the need to increase the diversity of the population. Framingham 3 began in 2002 with the enrollment of the grandchildren of the original participants, the third generation. The 2nd generation of the Omni Cohort was added in 2003. The majority of participants are caucasian.

The Framingham Heart Study has resulted in approximately 1,200 articles in different medical journals. Over the years, different diagnostic technologies have been added. Echocardiography, carotid artery ultrasound, cardiac MRI, and CT scans of the hart and coronary arteries are examples of some of the diagnostic technologies. Evaluations of the genetic profiles of all participants are also being evaluated.

Research Milestones of findings from the Framingham Heart Study are available on their website.

The Framingham Risk Score

The Framingham Risk Score is a 10-year calculation of risk for cardiovascular disease was formulated from the Framingham Heart Study. The Framingham Risk Score Calculator uses several factors in order to calculate the patient’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years. Low intermediate, and high risk is based on the percent risk over 10 years.

  • Low Risk: <10% risk in the next 10 years
  • Intermediate Risk: 10-20% risk in the next 10 years
  • High Risk: >20% rusk in the next 10 years

The components of the risk calculator are:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Systolic Blood Pressure
  • Treatment for hypertension (yes or no)
  • Smoking status
  • Diabetes
  • HDL
  • Total Cholesterol

The Framingham Risk Score (FRS) has driven cardiovascular disease risk screening for many years. I believe there are 2 problems with this. First, this screening is based on known risk factors and not the actual presence of disease. Second, it is based on epidemiology.

Epidemiologic data can be tricky because it tells us about issues in a given population. However, it does NOT necessarily indicate risk for a specific person.