University of Minnesota

Charleston Heart Study

Study Category: The Cohort Studies (1947-1972)
Year Begun: 1960
Location: Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Principal Investigator: Boyle, Jr., Edwin
External Resource: View URL


This was an early NIH-supported cohort study of cardiovascular disease risk (CVD) in 2181 black and white, men and women, average age 49, an 84 percent response to a sample of the county, plus a group of high SES (Socio-economic Status) black men, not representative. They were reexamined four times from entry in 1960 until 1990, with 98 percent follow up for mortality. The main question was about Black/White risk differences.

The study was born in the general practice of Dr. Boyle and in its first year was reoriented to a population-based community study by the USPHS officer assigned to it in 1959, Milton Nichaman and the study’s consultants including Bernard Greenberg, Curtis Hames, and Jerry Stamler.


Blood pressures were significantly higher in blacks than in whites. The systolic pressures of black women were significantly higher than those in the men and increased more sharply with age. While there was a clear relation between body weight and blood pressure in whites, divergent patterns were seen in blacks. Black women were particularly overweight. A significant relationship was observed between blood pressure and skin color in blacks. Predictors of physical disability were advancing age, presence of CVD, and traditional coronary risk factors.


Charleston provided, along with the Evans County Study in Georgia, the first information on differences in CVD risk levels, prevalence, mortality, and disability among races by gender in the southern U.S. It is still working on the causes for those differences. (HB)


Boyle E Jr, Griffey WP, Nichaman MZ, Talbert CR (1967). An epidemiologic study of hypertension among racial groups in Charleston County, S.C. The Charleston Heart Study. Phase II. Epidemiol Hypertension, 193-203

Keil JE, Tyroler HA, Sandifer SH, Boyle E Jr., (1977). Hypertension: effects of social class and racial admixture: the results of a cohort study in the black population of Charleston, South Carolina. American Journal of Public Health, 67: 634-9.

Keil JE, Gazes PC, Sutherland SE, Rust PF, Branch LG, Tyroler HA (1989). Predictors of physical disability in elderly blacks and whites of the Charleston Heart Study. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 42: 521-9.

Keil, JE 1993. “His Clock Had No Hands,” The Story of Edwin Boyle, Jr, MD and the Charleston Heart Study. Medical University of South Carolina. Charleston, SC.

Keil JE, Sutherland SE, Hames CG, Lackland DT, Gazes PC, et al, (1995). Coronary disease mortality and risk factors in black and white men. Results from the combined Charleston, South Carolina, and Evans County, Georgia, heart studies. Archive of Internal Medicine, 155: 1521-7.