Framingham Heart Study praised for ongoing health contributions

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – The Framingham Heart Study continues to make significant contributions to women’s health research, including Alzheimer’s prevention work, state legislators and medical professionals were told at a Boston University School of Medicine roundtable Tuesday.

“The Framingham Heart Study has been absolutely central to our understanding of what the precursors are for heart disease,” said Emelia Benjamin, a cardiovascular professor at BU and researcher at the Framingham Heart Study. “Framingham has shared more of its data than virtually any other study in the world.”

Praise for the decades-long research came during “Meeting the Needs of Women and Children in our Communities,” a seminar that brought medical practitioners and politicians together to discuss current research and possible medical and policy solutions.

“It’s really important because constituents come to us all the time about these issues,” said Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, a co-sponsor of the event along with Sen. Karen Spilka, D-Ashland, and the Boston University School of Medicine.

The focus of the discussion was on nutrition and obesity, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and health disparities between women of different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds. The Heart Study was singled out for praise.

“The generosity and the devotion of the participants absolutely cannot be underestimated,” said Benjamin. “We wouldn’t have a study if they didn’t keep coming back year after year. They are the heroes and heroines.”

Started in 1948 with 5,209 Framingham residents, the Framingham Heart Study is the oldest observational study operating in the world. The study is in its third generation; it collects data from original volunteers and cohorts of their children and grandchildren every two years.

Sixty-four years worth of data from the Framingham study is available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Richard Myers, a BU professor of neurology, told lawmakers that the Framingham Heart Study is also assisting with Alzheimer’s and obesity research as members of the study agree to donate their post-mortem brain tissue for research.

“We have a lifetime experience of all their diseases,” said Myers.

Atkins said that mental health, Alzheimer’s, and sports-related head injuries are the most common health issues she hears about in her district

“One of the things I want to do is review more legislation for sports-related injuries and look at what they’re doing in soccer in terms of head butting because that would be an easy thing to do,” she said.

Spilka, who co-sponsored the event but was unable to attend because of a stomach bug, released this statement afterwards.

“In order for Massachusetts to continue to lead the nation in terms of health care and treatment for women, we must keep the lines of communication open with the people that are on the front lines, including the many doctors and researchers at Boston University.”

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