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Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA)

    • Owner / manager
    • Study and sample characteristics
    • Major foci
    • Special supplements and resources
    • Links to other datasets
    • Papers published
    • Dataset accessibility and cost
    • Help desk

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Dataset Summary

CARDIA is a longitudinal study of 5,115 adults who were age 18-30 at enrollment in 1985-86 and have been followed at intervals since then.  The main focus of the study is to evaluate the development of heart disease in adults.  As a result, CARDIA contains extensive historical, exam-based, laboratory and radiological evaluations of participants including anthropometry, standard and “advanced” laboratory tests, EKG, echocardiography, and CT coronary calcium evaluations, and more.  In addition, it has collected extensive data on behavioral, physical activity, nutritional, and psychosocial parameters, including data on psychosocial features such as job stress, discrimination, social networks and support, and more.  Finally, the dataset includes evaluations of a variety of other biochemical and test-based data ranging from toenail lead levels to bone mass evaluations.  Data is distributed through an application process with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Expert comments    

CARDIA is a unique epidemiological study that is well suited for answering questions of how heart disease develops in young adults.  Three features are important to note.  First, these are young adults at the start of the study (18-30 years old) who are community dwelling and presumed free of disease.  This cohort is about to enter its year 25 exam and participants have had regular study visits over this relatively long interval.  Second, the cohort is ½ black, ½ white, ½ men, ½ women, ½ low SES, ½ high SES – because of these design features, the cohort is unique in its ability to address questions at the intersection of race/sex/SES in young adults.  Third, study visits have include multiple in-depth questionnaires related to behavior, psychosocial issues, physiological measurements, and adjudicated cardiovascular outcomes.  The number of clinical events thus far in CARDIA is relatively small, because the cohort is young.  If you are looking for a large number of individuals with a particularly clinical condition, CARDIA is probably not the right dataset for you.  On the other hand, if you are interested in issues of prevention and the period before the development of clinical disease, CARDIA is ideal.

Dataset Details

Dataset owner / manager

CARDIA is sponsored by the NHLBI; the coordinating center is at the University of Alabama at Birmingham
Study and sample characteristics    
Longitudinal population cohort study if 5,115 black and white adults from 4 study sites in the United States.  Subjects were age 18-30 at enrollment in 1985-86, and have been followed in 6 subsequent evaluations, the most recent of which was 2005-06.


Major foci

Major areas covered by CARDIA are listed below.  Please note that within each topic area, certain questions have been asked only for certain years.  

        • Blood pressure
        • Chemistries
        • Anthropometry
        • Medical history (including sociodemographics and health behaviors)
        • Family history
        • Physical activity/fitness
        • Nutrient intake / dietary history
        • Obesity questionnaires
        • Psychosocial parameters (including a wide variety of data including social support, job strain, discrimination, caregiving stress, neighborhood cohesion, and many others)
        • Pulmonary function
        • Electrocardiogram and echocardiography
        • Coronary calcium
        • Carotid intimal medial thickness
        • Genetic studies
Special supplements and resources   
CARDIA contains a number of substudies and ancillary studies which have collected data on a variety of biochemical and radiographic markers.

For more information see the following links:
Papers published    

 Click here for a PubMed search for articles using this dataset.

For a complete list of publications, see

Examples of papers published using CARDIA include:

Racial differences in incident heart failure among young adults.
Bibbins-Domingo K, Pletcher MJ, Lin F, Vittinghoff E, Gardin JM, Arynchyn A, Lewis CE, Williams OD, Hulley SB.
N Engl J Med. 2009 Mar 19;360(12):1179-90.

Prehypertension during young adulthood and coronary calcium later in life.
Pletcher MJ, Bibbins-Domingo K, Lewis CE, Wei GS, Sidney S, Carr JJ, Vittinghoff E, McCulloch CE, Hulley SB.
Ann Intern Med. 2008 Jul 15;149(2):91-9.

Association of neighborhood socioeconomic status with physical fitness in healthy young adults: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.
Shishehbor MH, Gordon-Larsen P, Kiefe CI, Litaker D.
Am Heart J. 2008 Apr;155(4):699-705

Relationships between skin color, income, and blood pressure among African Americans in the CARDIA Study.Sweet E, McDade TW, Kiefe CI, Liu K.
Am J Public Health. 2007 Dec;97(12):2253-9.

Active and passive smoking and development of glucose intolerance among young adults in a prospective cohort: CARDIA study.
Houston TK, Person SD, Pletcher MJ, Liu K, Iribarren C, Kiefe CI.
BMJ. 2006 May 6;332(7549):1064-9. Erratum in: BMJ. 2006 Jun 3;332(7553):1298.

Dataset accessibility and cost    
Access to CARDIA data is granted through the NHLBI, which provides free limited-access datasets for researchers upon completion of an application process.

Help Desk    
Email:  As described in the following website, services provided include:

1.    elucidation of data nomenclature
2.    identification of whether certain variables are available through the limited access data set, the CARDIA core data set, or both
3.    searches of the CARDIA publications database to identify manuscripts in progress by CARDIA investigators, on a specific topic
4.    help with seeking CARDIA investigators who may be interested in potential scientific collaborations on a specific topic

 Request a Consultation (SGIM members only)
Members of SGIM  may request a one-time consultation with an expert in this dataset, for example, to explore research ideas or to troubleshoot a problem or vexing question. Please click here for guidelines and the request process.