30,000 Swedes Take Part in One of the Biggest Studies in the World

The Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study, SCAPIS, involving 30,000 men and women aged 50-65, is one of the biggest studies in the world and will create the biggest information bank in Swedish history. It will be a great source of research for years to come, helping scientists solve the mysteries of the diseases and disorders of the heart, blood vessels and lungs.

Almost half of all deaths in Sweden are due to cardiovascular disease, and hundreds of thousands of Swedes suffer from diseases and disorders of the heart, blood vessels and lungs. Many people die unnecessarily and there are many remaining mysteries left for scientists to solve.
In an effort to gain more knowledge about the risk factors and development of cardio and pulmonary diseases, a group of researchers from the six universities of Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm, Uppsala, Linköping and Umeå initiated a nation-wide study called the Swedish CArdioPulmonary bioImage Study, or SCAPIS for short.
The Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, a charitable fundraising organisation, has deemed the study to be so valuable that they’ve decided to contribute with the main funding. Co-funders include The Swedish Research Council, Vinnova and the Wallenberg Foundation.
The full-scale study will be conducted at six university research centres in Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm, Uppsala, Linköping and Umeå, who all welcome the study and view it as strategically important. During 2013-2016, 30,000 men and women aged 50-65, go through extensive health examinations of their heart, blood vessels and lungs, including: CTA, ultrasound, MRI, CT, blood tests, anthropometry, blood pressure, ankle-arm index, activity measurement, lung function tests and ECG. They will also complete a detailed questionnaire about environmental and socioeconomic factors as well as diet.
All information gathered will be stored in an information bank, which will be a great source of research for years to come.
”Never before have such volumes of data, images and test results been stored in an information bank in Sweden,” tells Professor Göran Bergström, Principal Investigator of SCAPIS.
A great advantage of running the study in Sweden is the country's system of personal identity numbers and registries, covering the total resident population.
"It makes it easy for us to randomly select the participants and follow-up on them through their lives. The baseline investigation ends in 2018. Then follows the analysis of cohorts. The outcomes will be the drivers of how the project develops. Perhaps the study peaks, with the greatest number of outcomes, sometime in 2022-2023," Göran Bergström surmises.

Expected and Surprising Results
The results from the pilot study, enrolling 1,100 Gothenburg citizens and run at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in 2012, somewhat surprised the researchers.
”We of course expected to find atherosclerosis in the coronary vessels, but not in 50% of the subjects,” Göran Bergström comments.
Using pedometers instead of letting the subjects gauge how much they moved and exercised, showed much less activity than expected, both by the researchers and the subjects themselves.
”During the two weeks for which they were monitored, they sat for more hours than we and they expected, and only 7% of the subjects fulfilled the level of exercise recommended by The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). The Board recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days a week, at an exertion level equal to brisk walking.”
The results also revealed a very strong correlation between socioeconomic status and level of disease. The occurrence of disease was 3-4 times higher in areas with low socioeconomic status compared to areas with high socioeconomic status.
"Again, such a correlation was expected, but not to this extent. It’s not good at all. We need political decisions to level out these anomalies," Göran Bergström concludes.


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