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Concept: Framingham, Massachusetts


Because people age differently, age is not a sufficient marker of susceptibility to disabilities, morbidities, and mortality. We measured nineteen blood biomarkers that include constituents of standard hematological measures, lipid biomarkers, and markers of inflammation and frailty in 4704 participants of the Long Life Family Study (LLFS), age range 30-110 years, and used an agglomerative algorithm to group LLFS participants into clusters thus yielding 26 different biomarker signatures. To test whether these signatures were associated with differences in biological aging, we correlated them with longitudinal changes in physiological functions and incident risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and mortality using longitudinal data collected in the LLFS. Signature 2 was associated with significantly lower mortality, morbidity, and better physical function relative to the most common biomarker signature in LLFS, while nine other signatures were associated with less successful aging, characterized by higher risks for frailty, morbidity, and mortality. The predictive values of seven signatures were replicated in an independent data set from the Framingham Heart Study with comparable significant effects, and an additional three signatures showed consistent effects. This analysis shows that various biomarker signatures exist, and their significant associations with physical function, morbidity, and mortality suggest that these patterns represent differences in biological aging. The signatures show that dysregulation of a single biomarker can change with patterns of other biomarkers, and age-related changes of individual biomarkers alone do not necessarily indicate disease or functional decline.

Concepts: Sociology, Framingham, Massachusetts, Ageing, Senescence, Epidemiology, Death, Framingham Heart Study, Longitudinal study


Background The prevalence of dementia is expected to soar as the average life expectancy increases, but recent estimates suggest that the age-specific incidence of dementia is declining in high-income countries. Temporal trends are best derived through continuous monitoring of a population over a long period with the use of consistent diagnostic criteria. We describe temporal trends in the incidence of dementia over three decades among participants in the Framingham Heart Study. Methods Participants in the Framingham Heart Study have been under surveillance for incident dementia since 1975. In this analysis, which included 5205 persons 60 years of age or older, we used Cox proportional-hazards models adjusted for age and sex to determine the 5-year incidence of dementia during each of four epochs. We also explored the interactions between epoch and age, sex, apolipoprotein E ε4 status, and educational level, and we examined the effects of these interactions, as well as the effects of vascular risk factors and cardiovascular disease, on temporal trends. Results The 5-year age- and sex-adjusted cumulative hazard rates for dementia were 3.6 per 100 persons during the first epoch (late 1970s and early 1980s), 2.8 per 100 persons during the second epoch (late 1980s and early 1990s), 2.2 per 100 persons during the third epoch (late 1990s and early 2000s), and 2.0 per 100 persons during the fourth epoch (late 2000s and early 2010s). Relative to the incidence during the first epoch, the incidence declined by 22%, 38%, and 44% during the second, third, and fourth epochs, respectively. This risk reduction was observed only among persons who had at least a high school diploma (hazard ratio, 0.77; 95% confidence interval, 0.67 to 0.88). The prevalence of most vascular risk factors (except obesity and diabetes) and the risk of dementia associated with stroke, atrial fibrillation, or heart failure have decreased over time, but none of these trends completely explain the decrease in the incidence of dementia. Conclusions Among participants in the Framingham Heart Study, the incidence of dementia has declined over the course of three decades. The factors contributing to this decline have not been completely identified. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health.).

Concepts: Framingham, Massachusetts, Stroke, Atrial fibrillation, 1990s, Risk, Epidemiology, Medical statistics, Life expectancy


Soluble ST2 (sST2) is a cardiac biomarker whose concentration rises in response to myocardial strain. Increased sST2 concentrations may predict adverse outcomes in patients with heart failure and myocardial infarction. Because sST2 was largely undetectable with first-generation assays in ambulatory individuals, there are few data regarding its distribution and correlates in community-based populations.

Concepts: Cardiac arrest, Solution, Framingham Heart Study, Circulatory system, Cardiology, Framingham, Massachusetts, Heart, Myocardial infarction


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Parental stroke has been related to an increased risk of stroke in the offspring. This study examines whether parental stroke is also associated with increased vascular brain injury and poorer cognitive performance among offspring free of clinical stroke. METHODS: Multivariable regression analyses were used to relate parental stroke to cross-sectional and change in brain magnetic resonance imaging measures and cognitive function among the offspring, with and without adjustment for vascular risk factors. RESULTS: Stroke- and dementia-free Framingham Offspring (n=1297, age, 61±9 years, 54% women) were studied. Parental stroke by age 65 years was associated with a higher baseline white matter hyperintensity volume (β=0.17±0.08; P=0.027) and with lower visual memory performance (β= -0.80±0.34; P=0.017). During a 6-year follow-up, parental stroke was also associated with increase in white matter hyperintensity volume (odds ratio [OR], 1.87; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.03-3.38) and decline in executive function (Trails B-A; OR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.06-3.09). The associations with white matter hyperintensity volume and visual memory attenuated after additional adjustment for concomitant vascular risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: Parental stroke by age 65 years is associated with increased vascular brain injury and lower memory in offspring equivalent to 3 and 7 years of brain aging, respectively. This may be partly attributed to inheritance of vascular risk factors.

Concepts: Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts, Regression analysis, Memory, Cognition, Psychology, Magnetic resonance imaging, Brain


Understanding the social and biological mechanisms that lead to homogamy (similar individuals marrying one another) has been a long-standing issue across many fields of scientific inquiry. Using a nationally representative sample of non-Hispanic white US adults from the Health and Retirement Study and information from 1.7 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms, we compare genetic similarity among married couples to noncoupled pairs in the population. We provide evidence for genetic assortative mating in this population but the strength of this association is substantially smaller than the strength of educational assortative mating in the same sample. Furthermore, genetic similarity explains at most 10% of the assortative mating by education levels. Results are replicated using comparable data from the Framingham Heart Study.

Concepts: Framingham, Massachusetts, Education, DNA, Biology, Marriage, Assortative mating, Demography, Mating


Previous studies have identified effects of age and vascular risk factors on brain injury in elderly individuals. We aimed to establish whether the effects of high blood pressure in the brain are evident as early as the fifth decade of life.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Framingham, Massachusetts, Vein, Orthostatic hypotension, Blood, Artery, Hypertension, Blood pressure


Previous work from the Framingham Heart Study suggests that brain changes because of arterial aging may begin in young adulthood and that such changes precede cognitive deficits. The objective of this study was to determine the association of arterial stiffness with measures of white matter and gray matter (GM) integrity in young adults.

Concepts: The Association, Adult, Neuroanatomy, Central nervous system, Galen, Hardness, Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects ∼30% of US adults, yet the role of sugar-sweetened beverages and diet soda on these diseases remains unknown. We examined the cross-sectional association between intake of sugar-sweetened beverages or diet soda and fatty liver disease in participants of the Framingham Offspring and Third Generation cohorts.

Concepts: Steatohepatitis, Death, Steatosis, Framingham Heart Study, Framingham, Massachusetts, Obesity, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Fatty liver


In populations that have not been selected for family history of disease, it is unclear how commonly pathogenic variants (PVs) in disease-associated genes for rare Mendelian conditions are found and how often they are associated with clinical features of these conditions. We conducted independent, prospective analyses of participants in two community-based epidemiological studies to test the hypothesis that persons carrying PVs in any of 56 genes that lead to 24 dominantly inherited, actionable conditions are more likely to exhibit the clinical features of the corresponding diseases than those without PVs. Among 462 European American Framingham Heart Study (FHS) and 3223 African-American Jackson Heart Study (JHS) participants who were exome-sequenced, we identified and classified 642 and 4429 unique variants, respectively, in these 56 genes while blinded to clinical data. In the same participants, we ascertained related clinical features from the participants' clinical history of cancer and most recent echocardiograms, electrocardiograms, and lipid measurements, without knowledge of variant classification. PVs were found in 5 FHS (1.1%) and 31 JHS (1.0%) participants. Carriers of PVs were more likely than expected, on the basis of incidence in noncarriers, to have related clinical features in both FHS (80.0% versus 12.4%) and JHS (26.9% versus 5.4%), yielding standardized incidence ratios of 6.4 [95% confidence interval (CI), 1.7 to 16.5; P = 7 × 10(-4)) in FHS and 4.7 (95% CI, 1.9 to 9.7; P = 3 × 10(-4)) in JHS. Individuals unselected for family history who carry PVs in 56 genes for actionable conditions have an increased aggregated risk of developing clinical features associated with the corresponding diseases.

Concepts: White American, European American, Framingham Heart Study, Genetic linkage, African American, Medicine, Framingham, Massachusetts, Epidemiology


IMPORTANCE In animal studies, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been shown to impact neuronal survival and function and improve synaptic plasticity and long-term memory. Circulating BDNF levels increase with physical activity and caloric restriction, thus BDNF may mediate some of the observed associations between lifestyle and the risk for dementia. Some prior studies showed lower circulating BDNF in persons with Alzheimer disease (AD) compared with control participants; however, it remains uncertain whether reduced levels precede dementia onset. OBJECTIVE To examine whether higher serum BDNF levels in cognitively healthy adults protect against the future risk for dementia and AD and to identify potential modifiers of this association. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS Framingham Study original and offspring participants were followed up from 1992 and 1998, respectively, for up to 10 years. We used Cox models to relate BDNF levels to the risk for dementia and AD and adjusted for potential confounders. We also ran sensitivity analyses stratified by sex, age, and education, as well as related BDNF genetic variants to AD risk. This community-based, prospective cohort study involved 2131 dementia-free participants aged 60 years and older (mean [SD] age, 72 [7] years; 56% women). MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES Ten-year incidence of dementia and AD. RESULTS During follow-up, 140 participants developed dementia, 117 of whom had AD. Controlling for age and sex, each standard-deviation increment in BDNF was associated with a 33% lower risk for dementia and AD (P = .006 and P = .01, respectively) and these associations persisted after additional adjustments. Compared with the bottom quintile, BDNF levels in the top quintile were associated with less than half the risk for dementia and AD (hazard ratio, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.28-0.85; P = .01; and hazard ratio, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.24-0.86; P = .02, respectively). These associations were apparent only among women, persons aged 80 years and older, and those with college degrees (hazard ratios for AD: 0.65, [95% CI, 0.50-0.85], P = .001; 0.63 [95% CI, 0.47-0.85], P = .002; and 0.27 [95% CI, 0.11-0.65], P = .003, respectively). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor genetic variants were not associated with AD risk. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE Higher serum BDNF levels may protect against future occurrence of dementia and AD. Our findings suggest a role for BDNF in the biology and possibly in the prevention of dementia and AD, especially in select subgroups of women and older and more highly educated persons.

Concepts: Framingham, Massachusetts, Longitudinal study, Neurotrophins, Framingham Heart Study, Dementia, Nerve growth factor, Neurotrophin, Brain-derived neurotrophic factor