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ARIC Over Time: Three Decades Later and Still Going Strong

ARIC study badgeThe Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) is one of the world’s most significant and longest-running heart health studies and is the largest study of heart health in African Americans.
Funded in 1987 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), ARIC investigates risk factors for heart disease and stroke, and the connections between cardiovascular and cognitive health.
ARIC’s many discoveries have increased understanding of the causes of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease, advanced cardiovascular disease prevention, and shaped guidelines for treating coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
The study began with 15,792 participants aged 45 through 65 in four communities. Nearly 6000 participants, primarily in their 80s and 90s, are still active in the study in 2021.

Study Goals

ARIC’s goals are:
  • to investigate the causes of atherosclerosis, a disease marked by plaque build-up in the arteries.
  • to measure how cardiovascular risk factors, medical care, and outcomes vary by race, sex, place, and time.
As ARIC participants have gotten older, an additional goal has been to better understand the connections between cardiovascular health and cognitive function.
ARIC includes two key components, community surveillance and a cohort study.
Community Surveillance
Community surveillance (1987 to 2014) used data about hospitalizations and deaths due to coronary heart disease to better understand community trends. Community surveillance helped assess rates of heart attack, hospitalizations from heart failure, and deaths due to heart disease in over 400,000 adults.
Cohort Study
The cohort study (1987 to present) recruited participants from four communities: Forsyth County, North Carolina; Jackson, Mississippi; eight northern suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Washington County, Maryland.
The cohort study’s focus is a clinical examination every 3 years, along with telephone followup twice a year to stay in touch with participants and assess health. The same participants who began the cohort study in 1987 are still active in the study today, with the 9th visit for clinical exams beginning in June of 2021. Findings from the cohort study have shaped clinical guidelines that doctors use to treat coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and chronic kidney disease.
Through the commitment of thousands of generous participants, ARIC has helped to transform health care with breakthrough knowledge on the prevention and management of heart disease and related conditions. And like our participants, ARIC keeps going, as we continue to add data and discoveries.
We look forward to engaging future generations to better understand their health and to ever more "research with heart."