University of Pittsburgh
April 7, 2003

University of Pittsburgh Researchers Receive $2.5 Million NIH Grant to Study Coronary Heart Disease

First ever NIH-funded study on heart disease in lesbians
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh has received a $2.5 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to study risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD) in lesbians. This is the first such study of its kind and will focus on the physiological, behavioral, and psychosocial factors related to the development of CHD.

Epidemiologists Deborah J. Aaron, School of Education, Nina Markovic, School of Dental Medicine, and Michelle E. Danielson, Graduate School of Public Health, are coresearchers for "Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Sexual Identity in Women" and members of the Center for Research on Health and Sexual Orientation at Pitt.

"This is the first large-scale, clinic-based study examining the risk of heart disease in lesbian women funded by the National Institutes of Health," said Suzanne Haynes, senior science advisor at the Office of Women's Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. "Five years ago, the Institute of Medicine identified research priorities for lesbian health. The first priority was to conduct research that would lead to a better understanding of the physical health status of lesbians. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in all women, and the funding of this project by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is truly a landmark event in developing a better understanding of the risk of heart disease in lesbians."

There has never been a comprehensive examination of CHD risk in a large sample of women who identify as lesbians or how their pattern of risk factors or overall risk for CHD may differ from demographically similar heterosexual women.

The Pitt project, to be conducted over a four-year period, will examine the potential differences in the prevalence and pattern of risk factors for CHD in 1,000 women, 500 self-identified lesbians, and 500 heterosexuals. The women will be matched for age, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity.

The study is funded completely by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute within the National Institutes of Health.