For more than 60 years, the NHLBI has led the fight against heart and vascular diseases. The NHLBI supports research to advance the understanding of and interventions for pediatric and adult heart and vascular diseases, including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and congenital heart disease. Over this period, steady, long-term investments in biomedical research have contributed to a 71 percent decrease in death rates due to coronary heart disease, yet more remains to be done. Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for men and women. The NHLBI has a long history of groundbreaking research in treatments for high blood pressure, a common condition that increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death for Americans.
The NHLBI will continue to build on its successes as it aims to better understand how to prevent, diagnose, and treat heart and vascular diseases. In 2016, NHLBI released its Strategic Vision, which will guide the Institute’s research activities for the coming decade. Many of the objectives, compelling questions, and critical challenges identified in the plan focus on heart and vascular biology and diseases. Training the next generation of heart and vascular scientists is also a high priority for the NHLBI. Learn more about how we are strategically moving research forward to improve health.
Scientific advances have created opportunities to create a future in which we have an improved understanding of the complex interplay of environmental, behavioral, and molecular factors that promote heart and vascular health; detect heart and vascular diseases in their earliest stages before they cause symptoms; to prevent disease progression; repair defective or damaged hearts with stem cell and tissue engineering techniques; and generate new therapeutics for chronic conditions, such as heart failure and high blood pressure.
The NHLBI will continue to pursue opportunities to improve our understanding of how heart and vascular diseases impact women and diverse populations. For example, researchers have learned that women are more likely than men to have coronary microvascular disease, which affects the tiny arteries in the heart. Our research also seeks to address health disparities related to heart and vascular diseases, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Read about how the NHLBI is advancing research on Women’s Health, Population and Epidemiology Studies, and Health Disparities.
NHLBI is also studying the complex interplay of heart and vascular health and disease in the following research areas.
The NHLBI is advancing heart and vascular diseases research in many ways. Learn about some of the NHLBI’s efforts to support research on heart and vascular diseases.
The NHLBI Division of Intramural Research (DIR) and its Cardiovascular Branch conducts research on diseases that affect the heart and blood vessels. Specific projects aim to answer clinically relevant questions in diagnostics, therapeutics, and interventions. Other DIR groups, such as the Systems Biology Center, perform research on heart and vascular diseases.
NHLBI’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences supports research to advance our understanding of and interventions for pediatric and adult cardiovascular diseases. It also supports the development of innovative technologies to diagnose, prevent, and treat heart and vascular diseases. The Center for Translation Research and Implementation Science supports research to translate these discoveries into clinical practice.
Through NHLBI’s Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) program, researchers will use data from studies focused on heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders to better predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases based on a patient’s unique genes, environment, and molecular signatures. Learn more about NHLBI precision medicine activities.
The Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network (CTSN) is an international clinical research enterprise that studies heart valve disease, arrhythmias, heart failure, coronary heart disease, and the complications of surgery. The trials spans from early translation to the completion of six randomized clinical trials, three large observational studies, and many other studies with more than 14,000 participants.
The Heart Failure Clinical Research Network (HFN) conducts clinical trials to evaluate treatments for acute and chronic heart failure. The HFN brings together nine Regional Coordinating Centers and additional clinical sites in the United States to form a collaborative platform to research strategies that address the increasing public health burden of heart failure.
The Pediatric Heart Network (PHN) involves hospitals in the United States and Canada that conduct studies to improve outcomes and quality of life in children with congenital or acquired heart diseases. The PHN and its companion consortia, the Cardiovascular Development Consortium and the Pediatric Cardiac Genomics Consortium, make up the Bench to Bassinet program and cover basic to complex clinical research.
The Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) is a clinical trial network that tested treatments to address high morbidity and mortality rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and severe traumatic injury. The trans-NIH Network for Emergency Care Clinical Trials: Strategies to Innovate EmeRgENcy Care Clinical Trials Network (SIREN)will conduct trials to improve outcomes in emergency departments and pre-hospital settings.
The Vascular Interventions/Innovations and Therapeutic Advances (VITA) Program is a translational program that supports and accelerates early stage development of promising diagnostics and treatments. VITA seeks to address unmet clinical needs for vascular diseases, particularly in underserved medical communities.
In 2019, the NHLBI became the primary steward of the new Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) / Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) Combined Cohort Study (MACS/WIHS-CSS). This study is a trans-NIH collaborative research effort that aims to understand and reduce the impact of chronic health conditions that affect people living with HIV. The MACS/WIHS Combined Cohort Study will build on decades of research in thousands of men and women who are living with and without HIV to further our understanding of chronic heart, lung, blood, sleep, and other disorders in people living with HIV.
The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) showed the benefit of lower blood pressure targets to reduce heart and vascular diseases and death. The SPRINT Memory and Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (SPRINT-MIND) Trial studies the effect of this treatment on cognitive function in adults 50 years or older. SPRINT results influenced clinical guidelines, which will improve care for millions of people.
The International Study of Comparative Health Effectiveness with Medical and Invasive Approaches (ISCHEMIA) is a 5,000-participant, 350-site international trial comparing invasive and conservative strategies to prevent heart and vascular events in patients with stable ischemic heart disease. ISCHEMIA and ISCHEMIA-Chronic Kidney Disease Trial (ISCHEMIA-CKD) results will inform future clinical care.
NHLBI population and epidemiology studies in different populations have made major contributions to understanding the causes and prevention of heart and vascular diseases. Studies include: Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC); Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS); Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA); Framingham Heart Study (FHS); Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL); Jackson Heart Study (JHS); Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA); Strong Heart Study (SHS); and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).
The Antihypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) was a large study that enrolled people with high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, two major risk factors for heart disease. The trial had two parts: a blood pressure study and a cholesterol study. ALLHAT’s findings have informed how we treat high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol.
The Biologic Specimen and Data Repository Information Coordinating Center (BioLINCC) centralizes and integrates biospecimens and clinical data that were once stored in separate repositories. Researchers can find and request available resources on BioLINCC's secure website, which maximizes the value of these resources and advances heart, lung, blood, and sleep research.
From 2006 to 2016, the NHLBI and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) co-funded the National Registry of Genetically Triggered Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms and Cardiovascular Conditions (GenTAC). The GenTAC Registry includes medical data, clinical images, and biological samples from over 3,600 patients. Launched in 2018, NHLBI’s GenTAC Alliance is providing leadership and expanding collaborations to address research and education needs, and advance clinical care of individuals who have genetically triggered thoracic aortic aneurysms.
Research on genetic therapies is part of our broader commitment to advancing scientific discovery aimed at developing safe and effective treatments for heart, lung, and blood disorders and diseases caused by faulty genes. Our National Gene Vector Biorepository and Gene Therapy Resource Program help investigators transform early-stage research into genetic therapies. These programs equip scientists with the tools, resources, safety testing services, and animal models they need to advance genetic therapy research from the laboratory into clinical trials.
The Global Cardiovascular Research Funders Forum Multinational Clinical Trials Initiative enables investigator-led multinational clinical trials by providing a way for researchers to submit a single proposal for consideration by international funders. The goal is to help researchers in different countries collaborate more effectively and plan ambitious, practice-changing clinical trials that deliver results successfully.
Lower blood pressure target greatly reduces cardiovascular complications and deaths in older adults
More intensive management of high blood pressure, below a commonly recommended blood pressure target, significantly reduces rates of cardiovascular disease, and lowers risk of death in a group of adults 50 years and older with high blood pressure...