Analysing risk factors
During consultations for the Lifelines study, each participant is assessed for their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels are taken into account. If new risk factors are found, the participant and their GP are notified. The researchers noted that this feedback has led to an increase in the use of antihypertensives among participants at high risk of cardiovascular disease.
This has improved the health of the participants concerned, which is a positive effect in itself, explains physician and researcher Yldau van der Ende: ‘Despite the prevailing guidelines, antihypertensives and statins had not previously been prescribed for many of the Lifelines participants with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is possible that they were not aware of having risk factors, and that these factors came to light thanks to the “screening” element of Lifelines. Treating the risk factors has probably helped to prevent a lot of people from developing cardiovascular disease, but we need more research to confirm this.’
A wealth of data
Lifelines is contributing to the goal of helping people to age more healthily in the future. The study was launched in 2006, when information relating to over 167,000 participants from the Northern Netherlands was gathered. This resulted in a wealth of data. When the study was launched, it was expected that Lifelines screening would reveal that some of the participants had hidden risk factors. Finding these problems at an early stage would enable the participants to seek treatment, which is clearly the best way of preventing more serious health damage. Since 2019, Lifelines participants have been invited three times to donate body materials (such as blood and urine) and fill in questionnaires. The collected data thus allows researchers to contribute to the overall goal of healthy ageing.