Harry Truman sitting at his desk June 16, 1948 — The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) started as the National Heart Institute after President Harry S. Truman signed the National Heart Act

This early image from the Framingham Heart Study shows Associate Director Dr. William Kannel (l) measuring heart size alongside J. William Claffey

1948 — The Framingham Heart Study started (read more in this fact sheet). One of the first long-term cohort studies of its kind, the Framingham Heart Study would become known as the crown jewel of epidemiology, which is the study of how and why diseases occur in populations. 


early image of the NIH Clinical Center showing one patient and a nurse1953 — The NIH Clinical Center welcomed its first patient for heart research.

When the NIH Clinical Center first opened, patients used a room called a solarium. 


A copy of the NIH Record announces the new NHLI name1969 — The institute grew to study lung diseases and changed its name to the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI).

A copy of the NIH Record announces the new NHLI name.


I've been tested for sickle cell anemia public service announcement

1971 — President Richard M. Nixon’s message to Congress identified sickle cell anemia as a high-priority disease target. He also called for increased federal expenditures to combat the disease. Then, the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs chose the NIH and NHLI to lead and organize a national sickle cell disease program.

This “I've been tested for sickle cell anemia. Have you?” public service announcement ran from 1965–1980. 

update1972 — The NHLI started the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, which is one of the country’s most effective public health education efforts. The campaign used advertising to help more Americans learn about their blood pressure (see AHA Journals). 

The National High Blood Pressure Education Program worked together with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The goal was to encourage AFL-CIO members to get their blood pressure checked and listen to their doctors.

boy using an asthma inhaler1975 — The Division of Lung Diseases (DLD) put out their first call for research grant applications. They wanted scientists to study lung inflammation. These important studies later showed proof that inflammation is connected to asthma and indicated that using inhaled corticosteroids may be a good way to treat the illness. (see ATS Journals).

1976 — The institute grew to also focus on blood problems and officially changed its name to the NHLBI. Blood diseases and disorders research has helped many people to live longer and healthier lives. It also helps make sure the blood supply is safe. (see AHA Journals).


physician conducts cholesterol testing on a patient1984 — The NHLBI Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (LRC-CPPT) proved that when men with high cholesterol levels lower their total blood cholesterol, it also lowers their chances of getting coronary heart disease.

People learned about their cholesterol numbers through a stop light graphic: green meant their number was in a healthy range, yellow was approaching unhealthy, and red was unhealthy.1985 — The NHLBI initiated the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP).


People learned about their cholesterol numbers through a stop light graphic: green meant their number was in a healthy range, yellow was approaching unhealthy, and red was unhealthy.


a person cutting vegetables1991 — The NHLBI developed the Obesity Education Initiative. The focus was to teach both the public and doctors about how being overweight can increase the chances of having heart problems. The initiative also explained how obesity is connected to other factors that can cause heart issues, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

a man and woman in bed sleeping1993 — Congress called for the establishment of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) within NHLBI in response to rising concerns over sleep health. 

Juliana Voss1995 — The NHLBI discovered the first effective treatment for adults who have sickle cell disease. Over the years, the NHLBI continued to find more treatments for this disease. These treatments have helped millions of Americans, such as Juliana Voss, R.N., M.S.N. Read Juliana’s story.

Juliana Voss, R.N., M.S.N. grew up with sickle cell anemia. 

group of women playing a game1997 — The NHLBI took responsibility for the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which is a study focused on health problems that affect women after menopause. For more than 15 years, over 160,000 women between 50 and 79 years joined the study. This made it one of the biggest studies in the United States focused on preventing health issues (see Cardiology Magazine).


2001 — The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet, Sodium Intake and Blood Pressure Trial (referred to as DASH-Sodium) looked at how eating less salt affects people with high blood pressure. The results showed that cutting down on salt helps to lower blood pressure, especially when people also eat lots of fruits and vegetables and less fatty foods. Learn more about the DASH eating plan.

Know the Heart Attack Warning Signs campaign2001 — The NHLBI, along with the American Heart Association (AHA) and other groups, started a campaign called Act in Time to Heart Attack Signs. The campaign focused on educating people about the signs of a heart attack and how important it is to act quickly to seek care.

2002 — A study from the WHI found that using both estrogen and progestin for menopause symptoms raised the chances of getting breast cancer, heart problems, stroke, blood clots, and having trouble controlling urine. Many women then stopped using these hormones, which lowered their chances of getting breast cancer. Learn more about the WHI.

The Heart Truth campaign2002 — The NHLBI created The Heart Truth®, the first campaign about heart disease as the leading cause of death in women. The Heart Truth introduced the Red Dress® symbol to educate and motivate women to take action to protect their hearts.

The Red Dress Collection® fashion show, started in 2003, was a regular special event that took place during February’s New York Fashion Week to raise awareness for heart disease in women.

Former NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel2007 — The NHLBI started the Learn More Breathe Better® campaign. The campaign helps doctors and patients know more about a top lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Former NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel launches the Learn More Breathe Better campaign. 


blood pressure monitor being used2010 The NIH Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) study, supported by the NHLBI, began investigating what happens when people lower their systolic blood pressure below 120 mm Hg. The goal was to see how this affects the heart, kidneys, and brain. They found that reaching this lower goal made heart problems less likely and made people healthier, including those with chronic kidney disease.

2013 — NHLBI-funded scientists at Duke University succeeded in producing human heart tissue in vitro. This is a big step toward creating treatments for heart problems using cells and testing new medicines for people who have heart disease.


A physician conducts a nasal swab on a patient.2020 — Researchers from a partially NHLBI-funded study learned that if someone already has heart problems, they could have more serious issues and a greater chance of passing away if they get COVID-19.

A woman wearing a mask stands with her hands crossed. The text reads, “Together, we can conquer COVID-19.2020 — The NHLBI joined the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) to start the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) against COVID-19 Disparities. CEAL worked closely with the communities that were most affected by COVID-19. They provided information and encouraged people to take steps to protect their health.

A young person stands wearing a mask to prevent COVID-192021 — The NHLBI and NIH started the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative to understand the lasting effects of COVID-19. RECOVER later identified the most common symptoms of COVID-19, the different groups of people who experience them, and a way to score the symptoms. This helps doctors to better treat Long COVID.

A physician checks a pregnant woman’s blood pressure.2022 — The Chronic Hypertension and Pregnancy (CHAP) trial, a study funded by the NHLBI, discovered that pregnant adults with long-term high blood pressure who took medicine to lower their blood pressure before or during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy had fewer babies born too early and fewer serious problems during pregnancy compared to those who didn’t get this treatment.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute - 75 Years Bringing Research to Life2023 — The NHLBI celebrates 75 years of bringing research to life and looking ahead to future discoveries. The NHLBI and its partners are working toward helping more people live longer and healthier lives, ensuring everyone gets equal care, and using new technologies to turn science into better health.