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

de Las Fuentes L, Sung YJ, Noordam R, Winkler T, Feitosa MF, Schwander K, Bentley AR, Brown MR, Guo X, Manning A, Chasman DI, Aschard H, Bartz TM, Bielak LF, Campbell A, Cheng CY, Dorajoo R, Hartwig FP, Horimoto ARVR, Li C, Li-Gao R, Liu Y, Marten J, Musani SK, Ntalla I, Rankinen T, Richard M, Sim X, Smith AV, Tajuddin SM, Tayo BO, Vojinovic D, Warren HR, Xuan D, Alver M, Boissel M, Chai JF, Chen X, Christensen K, Divers J, Evangelou E, Gao C, Girotto G, Harris SE, He M, Hsu FC, Kühnel B, Laguzzi F, Li X, Lyytikäinen LP, Nolte IM, Poveda A, Rauramaa R, Riaz M, Rueedi R, Shu XO, Snieder H, Sofer T, Takeuchi F, Verweij N, Ware EB, Weiss S, Yanek LR, Amin N, Arking DE, Arnett DK, Bergmann S, Boerwinkle E, Brody JA, Broeckel U, Brumat M, Burke G, Cabrera CP, Canouil M, Chee ML, Chen YI, Cocca M, Connell J, de Silva HJ, de Vries PS, Eiriksdottir G, Faul JD, Fisher V, Forrester T, Fox EF, Friedlander Y, Gao H, Gigante B, Giulianini F, Gu CC, Gu D, Harris TB, He J, Heikkinen S, Heng CK, Hunt S, Ikram MA, Irvin MR, Kähönen M, Kavousi M, Khor CC, Kilpeläinen TO, Koh WP, Komulainen P, Kraja AT, Krieger JE, Langefeld CD, Li Y, Liang J, Liewald DCM, Liu CT, Liu J, Lohman KK, Mägi R, McKenzie CA, Meitinger T, Metspalu A, Milaneschi Y, Milani L, Mook-Kanamori DO, Nalls MA, Nelson CP, Norris JM, O'Connell J, Ogunniyi A, Padmanabhan S, Palmer ND, Pedersen NL, Perls T, Peters A, Petersmann A, Peyser PA, Polasek O, Porteous DJ, Raffel LJ, Rice TK, Rotter JI, Rudan I, Rueda-Ochoa OL, Sabanayagam C, Salako BL, Schreiner PJ, Shikany JM, Sidney SS, Sims M, Sitlani CM, Smith JA, Starr JM, Strauch K, Swertz MA, Teumer A, Tham YC, Uitterlinden AG, Vaidya D, van der Ende MY, Waldenberger M, Wang L, Wang YX, Wei WB, Weir DR, Wen W, Yao J, Yu B, Yu C, Yuan JM, Zhao W, Zonderman AB, Becker DM, Bowden DW, Deary IJ, Dörr M, Esko T, Freedman BI, Froguel P, Gasparini P, Gieger C, Jonas JB, Kammerer CM, Kato N, Lakka TA, Leander K, Lehtimäki T; Lifelines Cohort Study, Magnusson PKE, Marques-Vidal P, Penninx BWJH, Samani NJ, van der Harst P, Wagenknecht LE, Wu T, Zheng W, Zhu X, Bouchard C, Cooper RS, Correa A, Evans MK, Gudnason V, Hayward C, Horta BL, Kelly TN, Kritchevsky SB, Levy D, Palmas WR, Pereira AC, Province MM, Psaty BM, Ridker PM, Rotimi CN, Tai ES, van Dam RM, van Duijn CM, Wong TY, Rice K, Gauderman WJ, Morrison AC, North KE, Kardia SLR, Caulfield MJ, Elliott P, Munroe PB, Franks PW, Rao DC, Fornage M. Gene-educational attainment interactions in a multi-ancestry genome-wide meta-analysis identify novel blood pressure loci. Mol Psychiatry. 2020 May 5. doi: 10.1038/s41380-020-0719-3. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Odden MC, Rawlings AM, Arnold AM, Cushman M, Biggs ML, Psaty BM, Newman AB. Patterns of cardiovascular risk factors in old age and survival and health status at 90. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2020 Apr 8. pii: 5817783. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glaa043. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Reding KW, Aragaki AK, Cheng RK, Barac A, Wassertheil-Smoller S, Chubak J, Limacher MC, Hundley WG, D'Agostino R Jr, Vitolins MZ, Brasky TM, Habel LA, Chow EJ, Jackson RD, Chen C, Morgenroth A, Barrington WE, Banegas M, Barnhart M, Chlebowski RT. Cardiovascular outcomes in relation to antihypertensive medication use in women with and without cancer: results from the Women's Health Initiative. Oncologist. 2020 Apr 6. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2019-0977. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Olson NC, Sitlani CM, Doyle MF, Huber SA, Landay AL, Tracy RP, Psaty BM, Delaney JA. Innate and adaptive immune cell subsets as risk factors for coronary heart disease in two population-based cohorts. Atherosclerosis. 2020 Mar 16. pii: S0021-9150(20)30147-7. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2020.03.011. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Sitlani CM, Lumley T, McKnight B, Rice KM, Olson NC, Doyle MF, Huber SA, Tracy RP, Psaty BM, C Delaney JA. Incorporating sampling weights into robust estimation of Cox proportional hazards regression model, with illustration in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. BMC Med Res Methodol. 2020 Mar 14;20(1):62. doi: 10.1186/s12874-020-00945-9. PubMed

Researchers in Cardiovascular Health

Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD

Senior Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Beverly B. Green, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Laura Harrington, PhD, MPH

Assistant Investigator

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Michael L. Parchman, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator, Center for Accelerating Care Transformation

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Ellen O'Meara, PhD

Principal Collaborative Scientist

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Leah Tuzzio, MPH

Senior Research Associate


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