In the 1990s, anyone tuning in to a television news program or opening a popular magazine in the United States can learn about the dangers of such heart risk factors as hypertension, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking. But until the early 1950s, these factors were not identified as precursors of heart disease. "The Framingham study put into numbers what was only assumed or thought at the time," says Marvin Moser, a clinical professor of medicine at Yale University School of Medicine. "And because of its longevity, the Framingham study quantified cardiovascular risk factors better than any other study available."

When the study began in 1948, about 10,000 of Framingham's 28,000 residents fell within the study's preferred age range of 30 to 62 years (the age group shown to precede that at risk of developing heart disease). From this group, 5,209 men and women agreed to physical exams every two years...

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