The life span at birth in the Greco-Roman era (200-300 BC) was 27 years. The life span in 1900 was 47 years, representing a gain of 20 years in more than 2000 years, or an increase of 1 year per century. At the close of the 20th century, the average life span was 77 years. This is a 30-year gain in life expectancy in only 1 century, or an average of 3 years for every decade in the last century. Compare that with only 1 year gain in life expectancy per century for the previous 20 centuries. It must be quite evident from this brief review that in the last century the Framingham Heart Study played a pivotal role in influencing physicians and the public to place major emphasis on the prevention of CV disease. To be sure, the control of epidemics, cure of infections with antibiotics, universal vaccination, and establishing food and environmental safety standards in the last century were instrumental in extending the life span. Nevertheless, major and direct influences on the explosive expansion in longevity during our life time were the contributions of the Framingham Heart Study. To paraphrase W. B. Kannel, a chief investigator in the Framingham Heart Study, "A cardiovascular event should be regarded as a medical failure rather than the first indication for the need to treat."

You do not currently have access to this content.