The Bogalusa Heart Study

The Center for Lifespan Epidemiology Research provides support and resources to preserve and manage data and specimens of the Bogalusa Heart Study. This study is one of the longest on-going studies of a biracial, semi-rural community in the South. Our focus is on understanding the impact of vascular and metabolic changes on health throughout the lifespan.

History of our Study

In 1972, through the efforts of Dr. Gerald S. Berenson, a Bogalusa native and pediatric cardiologist who recognized the need for investigations into the childhood antecedents of adult cardiovascular diseases, the Bogalusa Heart Study (BHS) was founded. Since then the Bogalusa Heart Study has been conducting research on heart disease risk factors both in the community and in the laboratory and is now the flagship study for Center for Lifespan Epidemiology Research at Tulane University. Originally selected as a National Institutes of Health-sponsored Specialized Centers of Research – Arteriosclerosis at Louisiana State University Medical Center, funding for the research has come from National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Aging, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. A highly skilled and trained, multi-disciplinary team of anthropologists, biochemists, cardiologists, epidemiologists, geneticists, nurses, nutritionists, psychologists, sociologists, and statisticians have worked together to study hereditary and environmental aspects of early coronary artery disease (CAD).
Over 160 sub studies have been conducted over the years, which include special studies on socioeconomic evaluations, blood pressure studies, a lipids study, genetics studies, exercise, heart murmur studies, newborn cohort, diabetes, pathology, and C V imaging, to mention just a few.  Forty years after the first feasibility and developmental studies were conducted in Franklinton, Louisiana, the Bogalusa Heart Study continues today with the support of the entire Bogalusa community.

Epidemiologic studies are more efficient in collaboration. The Bogalusa Heart Study has actively participated in the International Childhood Cardiovascular Cohort (i3C) Consortium with six other cohorts of young populations all over the world since 2007. With the support of the entire Bogalusa Community, the National Institutes of Health, and Tulane University, the Bogalusa Heart Study continues to investigate disease prevention and provide significant and useful data for what in the future may improve the health of the population across the lifespan and eliminate of America’s number one killer – heart disease.

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Major Findings To Date

  • Observations clearly show that the major etiologies of adult heart disease, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and essential hypertension begin in childhood. Documented anatomic changes occur by 5 to 8 years of age.
  • C V risk factors can be identified in early life.
  • The levels of risk factors in childhood are different than those in the adult years. Levels change with growth phases, i.e. in the first year of life, during puberty and adolescence, in the transition to young adulthood and in adulthood. National Institute on Aging is now funding observations related to aging and longevity.
  • Autopsy studies show atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta and coronary vessels, and changes in the kidney vasculature relate strongly to clinical C V risk factors, clearly indicating atherosclerosis and hypertension begin in early life. Imaging studies of the heart, carotid and femoral arteries are extending these findings. Subtle changes of aging are reflecting a lifelong burden of C V risk factors.
  • Environmental factors are significant and influence dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. Those that are controllable include diet, exercise, and cigarette smoking.
  • Healthy lifestyles should be adopted in childhood, because they are critical to modulation of risk factors later in life. Primary care physicians, pediatricians and cardiologists can play a major leadership role in the prevention of adult heart diseases beginning in childhood.
  • In the education of young children, consideration of social problems have become equally important to prevention and control of risk factors through primordial prevention.


Featured Publications

More than 1,000 publications, five textbooks and numerous monographs have been produced which describe cross-sectional and longitudinal observations on more than 12,000 children and adults in Bogalusa, Louisiana. Results from the Bogalusa Heart Study give a clear picture of the early natural history of C-V risk factors, early coronary artery disease, type II, adult onset diabetes mellitus, and essential hypertension.

These studies extend follow-up to middle age and expand the investigation into the many aspects of aging. Results from the Bogalusa Heart Study give a clear picture of the early natural history of vascular diseases and their risk factors in a biracial population.

In 2013, the Bogalusa Heart Study moved from field offices on S. Columbia Street into a new clinic at 712 Willis Avenue in Bogalusa across from Cassidy Park.  The modern facilities have space to accommodate staff and an integrated program of research in one centralized location.