African American doctor and patient filling out paperwork with title Lessons Learned

CONSULT February 2020

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After two decades, Jackson Heart Study still yield priceless data

Published on Saturday, February 1, 2020

By: Karen Bascom

The University of Mississippi Medical Center helped make history in 2000 when it co-founded the Jackson Heart Study, the largest single-site cohort study of cardiovascular health and disease in African-Americans.

Jackson Heart Study logoFunded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the partnership between Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, the Mississippi State Department of Health and residents of Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties has built a legacy of heart health.

“The vision of the JHS from its inception has been to elucidate the reasons for the high burden of cardiovascular disease among African-Americans,” said Dr. Adolfo Correa, JHS director. “Our task is now to make this vision a reality.

Portrait of Adolfo Correa

“Since the first enrollment of participants, the Jackson Heart Study has been a source of interest, expectations and inspiration for study participants, the researcher community and graduate and undergraduate students.”

In two decades, the JHS has published more than 500 scientific papers and trained hundreds of students for careers in the health sciences. What have we learned from the study? Here are some of its findings:

Sickle Cell Trait

Sickle cell trait helps protect against malaria and is found in about 8 percent of African-Americans.

A 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association used participant data from the JHS and other cohort studies to show that the trait is associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

A separate study from 2017 showed in people with the same fasting glucose level, sickle cell trait is associated with a lower-than-expected hemoglobin A1C measurement. This could mean that some people are missing opportunities to treat type 2 diabetes.

The effects of tobacco use

While many people are aware of the effects of smoking on the heart and lungs, fewer consider how it damage other body systems.

One study showed JHS participants who use cigarettes had significant declines in renal function between JHS visits compared to those who never smoked cigarettes.

Another study found daily cigarette smoking increases the risk of peripheral artery disease, which limits blood flow to the arms, legs and vital organs other than the heart.

Social determinants of health

In addition to cardiovascular disease risk factors such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes, social factors, such as neighborhood, poor social conditions and stress, can impact health.

A study in the journal Preventive Medicine showed JHS participants who live in rural areas had a more active lifestyle than those who lived in more urban settings.


Genetic data from JHS participants has been used in global studies examining how small differences in our genome can affect health.

In 2011, a global team of researchers used JHS participant data to create the first genetic map built entirely from African-American individuals. Among other uses, this tool helps researchers study the basis for inheritable diseases.

Later, a 2016 study showed some of the small genetic changes can increase the risk of certain diseases, even if there is not a family history of that disease.


A 2010 study in diabetes care was among the first to characterize the risks to the heart and metabolism that fat build-up around the heart can pose to African-Americans.

The JHS also showed the value of following the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 guidelines in preventing diabetes.

A study published in the AHA’s research journal showed the more of the guidelines a participant followed, such as lowering blood sugar, avoiding tobacco use and managing blood pressure, the less likely he or she were to develop type 2 diabetes.

What’s Next?

The Mississippi State Department of Health joined the JHS in 2018, opening the doors for new ways to study health interventions through its Community Engagement Center. Starting in March, the JHS will welcome its participants back for a new set of comprehensive health exams, which should allow the JHS to make more discoveries for decades to come.

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