Cardiovascular Health

“One in four deaths in the United States is attributed to heart disease. Our researchers study how behavior, environment, and genetics affect heart health and how screening and treatment can reduce risk.”

Laura B. Harrington, PhD, MPH
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Assistant Investigator

Research overview

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans. Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) scientists are working to understand how to reduce our risk of heart attacks, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases throughout life. 

Addressing risk factors, improving diagnosis, and exploring how medications, genes, and everyday life affect our cardiovascular health at different ages and stages are central to this work — as is translating research findings into practical, personalized care.

“We’ve found that helping patients and health care teams work together on personalized care plans is the best path to lifelong heart health,” says Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH, whose recent work has focused on improving the diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Additional focus areas for KPWHRI scientists include exploring the impact of cardiovascular diseases on other health conditions — and vice versa. Recently, this has led researchers Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD, and Laura B. Harrington, PhD, MPH, to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on cardiovascular health.

Below are other research highlights from KPWHRI’s cardiovascular health scientists (please visit their bios to learn more):

  • In 2016 Dr. Green, a senior investigator, launched the BP-CHECK study, which aims to find the easiest, most accurate way to diagnose high blood pressure. With a $2.8 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the study compares blood pressure readings taken in clinic, at home, and at validated blood pressure kiosks to the 24-hour blood pressure test that is currently considered the gold standard for diagnosing hypertension.
     
  • Dr. Dublin, a senior investigator, explores many different facets of cardiovascular disease in her work, including risk factors for atrial fibrillation, the effect of medications on cardiovascular disease, and the relationship between cardiovascular disease and other conditions, such as dementia. Managing cardiovascular risk factors in pregnancy — such as high blood pressure and diabetes — is a particular interest.
     
  • Dr. Harrington, an assistant investigator, is a cardiovascular epidemiologist whose research aims to improve understanding of modifiable cardiovascular risk factors, particularly among older women. Currently, she is leading a study exploring the relationship between physical activity, sedentary behavior, and the risk of venous thromboembolism (blood clots that form predominantly in the veins of the legs or lungs). In addition to this work, Dr. Harrington conducts research in the areas of recurrent cardiovascular event risk, cardiovascular health in relation to cognitive decline and dementia risk in later life, and pharmacologic exposures in relation to cardiovascular event risk, with a particular focus on risk factors for venous thromboembolism.
     
  • Senior Investigator Michael L. Parchman, MD, MPH, focuses on implementing evidence-based cardiovascular disease care into primary care settings. He led the 4-year Healthy Hearts Northwest trial, an EvidenceNOW initiative that helped smaller primary care practices in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho adopt evidence-based approaches to improving cardiovascular care outcomes. The trial continues to produce findings of importance.
     
  • The work of Ellen O'Meara, PhD, a senior research associate, centers on the epidemiology of common and important health conditions in the United States, including cardiovascular disease. Her collaborative research has included studies exploring the risk factors and outcomes of heart disease and stroke. Recent work includes research on quality improvement aimed at controlling hypertension at small primary care practices.
     
  • Senior Research Associate Leah Tuzzio, MPH, focuses on studies designed to improve patients’ care experience and quality of life. She has studied chronic illnesses and health disparities, including how nurses can help Black and Latinx people manage hypertension. For the Healthy Hearts Northwest trial, she was part of the qualitative team that studied how to help smaller primary care clinics adopt evidence-based cardiovascular care. Analyzing data from this trial, she recently led a study that identified barriers to implementing cardiovascular risk calculation at smaller clinics. Her colleagues Dr. O'Meara and Dr. Parchman collaborated on this research. ​​​​​

Recent publications on Cardiovascular Health

Pase MP, Himali JJ, Beiser AS, DeCarli C, McGrath ER, Satizabal CL, Aparicio HJ, Adams HHH, Reiner AP, Longstreth WT Jr, Fornage M, Tracy RP, Lopez O, Psaty BM, Levy D, Seshadri S, Bis JC. Association of CD14 with incident dementia and markers of brain aging and injury. Neurology. 2020 Jan 21;94(3):e254-e266. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000008682. Epub 2019 Dec 9. PubMed

de Las Fuentes L, Sung YJ, Sitlani CM, Avery CL, Bartz TM, Keyser C, Evans DS, Li X, Musani SK, Ruiter R, Smith AV, Sun F, Trompet S, Xu H, Arnett DK, Bis JC, Broeckel U, Busch EL, Chen YI, Correa A, Cummings SR, Floyd JS, Ford I, Guo X, Harris TB, Ikram MA, Lange L, Launer LJ, Reiner AP, Schwander K, Smith NL, Sotoodehnia N, Stewart JD, Stott DJ, Stürmer T, Taylor KD, Uitterlinden A, Vasan RS, Wiggins KL, Cupples LA, Gudnason V, Heckbert SR, Jukema JW, Liu Y, Psaty BM, Rao DC, Rotter JI, Stricker B, Wilson JG, Whitsel EA. Genome-wide meta-analysis of variant-by-diuretic interactions as modulators of lipid traits in persons of European and African ancestry. Pharmacogenomics J. 2019 Dec 6. pii: 10.1038/s41397-019-0132-y. doi: 10.1038/s41397-019-0132-y. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Smit RAJ, Trompet S, Leong A, Goodarzi MO, Postmus I, Warren H, Theusch E, Barnes MR, Arsenault BJ, Li X, Feng Q, Chasman DI, Cupples LA, Hitman GA, Krauss RM, Psaty BM, Rotter JI, Cessie SL, Stein CM, Jukema JW, GIST consortium. Statin-induced LDL cholesterol response and type 2 diabetes: a bidirectional two-sample Mendelian randomization study. Pharmacogenomics J. 2019 Dec 5. doi: 10.1038/s41397-019-0125-x. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Robinson-Cohen C, Shlipak M, Sarnak M, Katz R, Peralta C, Young B, Hoofnagle AN, Szklo M, Ix JH, Psaty BM, de Boer IH, Kestenbaum B, Bansal N. Impact of race on the association of mineral metabolism with heart failure: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2019 Nov 24. pii: 5639682. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz218. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Lai HTM, de Oliveira Otto MC, Lee Y, Wu JHY, Song X, King IB, Psaty BM, Lemaitre RN, McKnight B, Siscovick DS, Mozaffarian D. Serial plasma phospholipid fatty acids in the de novo lipogenesis pathway and total mortality, cause-specific mortality, and cardiovascular diseases in the Cardiovascular Health Study. J Am Heart Assoc. 2019 Nov 19;8(22):e012881. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.012881. Epub 2019 Nov 12. PubMed

Researchers in Cardiovascular Health

Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2870
Sascha.Dublin@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Michael L. Parchman, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Center for Accelerating Care Transformation
206-287-2704
Michael.X.Parchman@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Ellen O'Meara, PhD

Senior Research Associate
206-287-2938
Ellen.S.O'Meara@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Leah Tuzzio, MPH

Senior Research Associate
206-287-2109
Leah.Tuzzio@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

 

Affiliate researchers

James Floyd, MD, MS
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology
University of Washington

Susan Heckbert, MD, PhD
University of Washington (UW) Department of Epidemiology; UW Cardiovascular Health Research Unit

Nicholas L. Smith, PhD, MPH
UW Professor, Epidemiology, Cardiovascular Health Research Unit
Director, Seattle Epidemiology and Information Resource Center, VA Puget Sound Health Care System