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

Wang Z, Chen H, Bartz TM, Bielak LF, Chasman DI, Feitosa MF, Franceschini N, Guo X, Lim E, Noordam R, Richard MA, Wang H, Cade B, Cupples LA, de Vries PS, Giulanini F, Lee J, Lemaitre RN, Martin LW, Reiner AP, Rich SS, Schreiner PJ, Sidney S, Sitlani CM, Smith JA, Willems van Dijk K, Yao J, Zhao W, Fornage M, Kardia SLR, Kooperberg C, Liu CT, Mook-Kanamori DO, Province MA, Psaty BM, Redline S, Ridker PM, Rotter JI, Boerwinkle E, Morrison AC. Role of rare and low-frequency variants in gene-alcohol interactions on plasma lipid levels. Circ Genom Precis Med. 2020 Jun 8. doi: 10.1161/CIRCGEN.119.002772. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Ntalla I, Weng LC, Cartwright JH, Hall AW, Sveinbjornsson G, Tucker NR, Choi SH, Chaffin MD, Roselli C, Barnes MR, Mifsud B, Warren HR, Hayward C, Marten J, Cranley JJ, Concas MP, Gasparini P, Boutin T, Kolcic I, Polasek O, Rudan I, Araujo NM, Lima-Costa MF, Ribeiro ALP, Souza RP, Tarazona-Santos E, Giedraitis V, Ingelsson E, Mahajan A, Morris AP, Del Greco M F, Foco L, Gögele M, Hicks AA, Cook JP, Lind L, Lindgren CM, Sundström J, Nelson CP, Riaz MB, Samani NJ, Sinagra G, Ulivi S, Kähönen M, Mishra PP, Mononen N, Nikus K, Caulfield MJ, Dominiczak A, Padmanabhan S, Montasser ME, O'Connell JR, Ryan K, Shuldiner AR, Aeschbacher S, Conen D, Risch L, Thériault S, Hutri-Kähönen N, Lehtimäki T, Lyytikäinen LP, Raitakari OT, Barnes CLK, Campbell H, Joshi PK, Wilson JF, Isaacs A, Kors JA, van Duijn CM, Huang PL, Gudnason V, Harris TB, Launer LJ, Smith AV, Bottinger EP, Loos RJF, Nadkarni GN, Preuss MH, Correa A, Mei H, Wilson J, Meitinger T, Müller-Nurasyid M, Peters A, Waldenberger M, Mangino M, Spector TD, Rienstra M, van de Vegte YJ, van der Harst P, Verweij N, Kääb S, Schramm K, Sinner MF, Strauch K, Cutler MJ, Fatkin D, London B, Olesen M, Roden DM, Benjamin Shoemaker M, Gustav Smith J, Biggs ML, Bis JC, Brody JA, Psaty BM, Rice K, Sotoodehnia N, De Grandi A, Fuchsberger C, Pattaro C, Pramstaller PP, Ford I, Wouter Jukema J, Macfarlane PW, Trompet S, Dörr M, Felix SB, Völker U, Weiss S, Havulinna AS, Jula A, Sääksjärvi K, Salomaa V, Guo X, Heckbert SR, Lin HJ, Rotter JI, Taylor KD, Yao J, de Mutsert R, Maan AC, Mook-Kanamori DO, Noordam R, Cucca F, Ding J, Lakatta EG, Qian Y, Tarasov KV, Levy D, Lin H, Newton-Cheh CH, Lunetta KL, Murray AD, Porteous DJ, Smith BH, Stricker BH, Uitterlinden A, van den Berg ME, Haessler J, Jackson RD, Kooperberg C, Peters U, Reiner AP, Whitsel EA, Alonso A, Arking DE, Boerwinkle E, Ehret GB, Soliman EZ, Avery CL, Gogarten SM, Kerr KF, Laurie CC, Seyerle AA, Stilp A, Assa S, Abdullah Said M, Yldau van der Ende M, Lambiase PD, Orini M, Ramirez J, Van Duijvenboden S, Arnar DO, Gudbjartsson DF, Holm H, Sulem P, Thorleifsson G, Thorolfsdottir RB, Thorsteinsdottir U, Benjamin EJ, Tinker A, Stefansson K, Ellinor PT, Jamshidi Y, Lubitz SA, Munroe PB. Multi-ancestry GWAS of the electrocardiographic PR interval identifies 202 loci underlying cardiac conduction. Nat Commun. 2020 May 21;11(1):2542. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15706-x. PubMed

Häberle AD, Biggs ML, Cushman M, Psaty BM, Newman AB, Shlipak MG, Gottdiener J, Wu C, Gardin JM, Bansal N, Odden MC. Level and change in N-terminal pro B-type natriuretic peptide and kidney function and survival to age 90. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2020 May 17. pii: glaa124. doi: 10.1093/gerona/glaa124. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Dikilitas O, Schaid DJ, Kosel ML, Carroll RJ, Chute CG, Denny JA, Fedotov A, Feng Q, Hakonarson H, Jarvik GP, Lee MTM, Pacheco JA, Rowley R, Sleiman PM, Stein CM, Sturm AC, Wei WQ, Wiesner GL, Williams MS, Zhang Y, Manolio TA, Kullo IJ. Predictive utility of polygenic risk scores for coronary heart disease in three major racial and ethnic groups. Am J Hum Genet. 2020;106(5):707-716. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2020.04.002. PubMed

Modes ME, Heckbert SR, Engelberg RA, Nielsen EL, Curtis JR, Kross EK. Patient-reported receipt of goal-concordant care among seriously ill outpatients - prevalence and associated factors. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2020 May 7:S0885-3924(20)30246-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2020.04.026. [Epub ahead of print]. 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