THE FRAMINGHAM HEART STUDY
In 1948, the famed Framingham Heart Study began and followed 5,209 men and women who lived just outside of Boston in the town of Framingham, Massachusetts.
It was a joint project of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute together with Boston University. Its purpose was to study the risk factors for heart disease. In the 1960s, these researchers reached several research milestones.
The first was the deduction that cigarette smoking and an increased risk of heart disease were related. Next, they found that high blood pressure, increased levels of cholesterol, and obesity all increased the risk for heart disease.
It was soon discovered that exercise and physical activity, in general, decreased the risk of developing heart disease, and helped counteract the risk presented by obesity.
As you can see, it was decided fairly early on in the study that cholesterol – often equated with fatty foods – and heart disease were inextricably linked. Scientists and the population in general latched on to this idea and acted accordingly.
Recommended diets were changed, ideas regarding foods containing cholesterol were altered, and the pharmaceutical industry began to research the development of medication that could help reduce the high blood pressure assumed to be caused by high levels of cholesterol.