Jackson Heart Study (JHS)

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What is the goal of the JHS?

The Jackson Heart Study (JHS) study is the largest investigation of causes of cardiovascular disease in African-Americans, involving more than 5,300 men and women in Jackson, Mississippi. The goal of the JHS is to investigate genetic and environmental factors to understand how African Americans are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular diseases, especially high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. The NHLBI and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities co-sponsor this study.

A second goal of the JHS is to promote cardiovascular health through effective community outreach. The first step to reducing risk of heart disease or stroke is building knowledge at the community level about the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and about scientifically proven heart-healthy lifestyle changes that prevent these conditions. A third goal of the JHS is to design a program to increase the number of African-American health professionals. The JHS conducts college undergraduate and graduate-level training programs and high school science and math enrichment programs to prepare and encourage underrepresented minority students to pursue biomedical careers.

Through the integrated components of research, community outreach, and training, investigators with the JHS will gain critical knowledge about cardiovascular disease in African-Americans to improve the health of the local community and Nation.


  • The JHS is the largest single-site investigation of cardiovascular disease among African-Americans ever undertaken.
  • The study has observed how participants live and analyzed how their heart health relates to their environment.
  • Additional features of the JHS include a community health awareness program and a training program for minority students in the health science field.
  • JHS study findings have been presented in nearly 400 publications.

What are the key findings of the JHS?

Discoveries made by JHS researchers include a gene variant in African-Americans that doubles the risk of heart disease; the finding that even small spikes in blood pressure can lead to a higher risk of death; and a sickle cell trait linked to a higher risk of kidney disease. These findings could lead to new ways for researchers to treat heart disease in African Americans.

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Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death for African-Americans. Both genetics and the environment play important roles in controlling the complex relationships between behaviors, risk factors, and cardiovascular diseases. Because of that, investigators with the JHS have also collected data on coping strategies, stressful situations, perceptions of discrimination, access to health care, medical history, and community characteristics to gain further knowledge on how the environment may affect the risk for cardiovascular diseases. The knowledge learned can help combat the high rate of heart disease in this population.

The NHLBI continues to leverage JHS data and specimens to spur new scientific discoveries. The NHLBI encourages researchers to utilize the valuable resources that have been collected since the study began in 1997. Learn more about utilizing JHS resources through the study website and through NHLBI’s Biologic Specimen and Data Repositories Information Coordinating Center (BioLINCC).

How is the JHS conducted?

Participants were recruited from among African-American adults living in the urban and rural areas of three counties surrounding the Jackson, Mississippi, metropolitan area. Jackson is the capital of Mississippi, the state with the largest percentage (36.3 percent) of African-Americans in the U.S. Participants undergo exams, and major, abnormal clinical findings are reported to the participants and to their health care providers. Follow-up information on vital status, major illnesses or injuries, and hospitalizations to identify intervening clinical events is done annually by phone.

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- Jackson Heart Study (JHS)

Since the JHS began, enrolled participants received three consecutive exams that produced extensive data on cardiovascular disease risk factors, socioeconomic and sociocultural factors, biochemical analytes, and measures of subclinical disease.

  • Baseline Exam 1 (2000-2004) included demographics, psychosocial inventories, medical history, anthropometry, resting and ambulatory blood pressure, a blood draw and 24-hour urine collection, electrocardiography (ECG), echocardiography, and lung function.
  • Exam 2 (2005-2008) included some repeated measures from Exam 1 and several new components, including distribution of self-monitoring blood pressure devices, DNA collection, and computerized tomography (CT) scans of the heart and abdomen.
  • Exam 3 (2009-2013) contained repeat measures from the first two exams and new questionnaires to assess sleep history and cognitive function in a subset of participants. Researchers also analyzed cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans with gadolinium MRI contrast in this group . Both assessments were aimed at identifying silent heart attacks.

The JHS contract involves higher education institutions: the University of Mississippi Medical Center (Data Acquisition Center and Data Coordinating Center and Graduate Training and Education Center), two historically Black colleges and universities, Jackson State University (Graduate Training and Education Center) and Tougaloo College (Undergraduate Training and Education Center), and a Community Engagement Center at the Mississippi State Department of Health. Selected students from the Training and Education Centers got the opportunity to take courses in public health and epidemiology and gain practical experience in health research to help prepare them for potential careers in biomedical research and professions.