Epidemiology of chronic diseases
We work on population studies related to the number of chronic disease and causal factors with a focus on gender. In 2011, our research was evaluated by an international group appointed by the Research Council of Norway. We were rated among the best research groups in the country and received a grade of good/excellent.
The Tromsø Study
The Tromsø Study was founded in 1974 and forms the basis for most of our research work. In 2012, the Tromsø Study received the research award of the year from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the Arctic University of Norway.
The purpose of the Tromsø Study was originally to identify the causes of the high mortality rate in North Norway, particularly that caused by cardiovascular diseases. The Study revealed that the high mortality rate was mainly caused by unhealthy lifestyle. Methods used to prevent heart attacks and strokes were also of importance, and the Tromsø Study is therefore both a health study and a research study. We believe it is vitally important that we communicate the results of our research to the general public. When teaching students we often make use of research-based examples from our own studies. Many of our Ph.D. projects and other research projects are carried out in collaboration with the University Hospital of North Norway and the Northern Norway Regional Health Authority (Helse Nord RHF). We also take part in several national and international collaboration projects.
A number of diseases
The Tromsø Study has now been expanded to cover many other diseases such as auricular fibrillation, diabetes, vein thrombosis (blood clots in veins), rheumatism, neurological and mental diseases, skin diseases, diseases related to the intestines, kidneys, eyes, cancer and osteoporosis. The Study has been designed as repeated health studies of large parts of the municipal population. In total, six Tromsø Studies have been completed. Tromsø 7 is currently being planned and will be realised in 2015.
The people of Tromsø back the study!
The people of Tromsø have supported the study since it started and have helped ensure high attendance rates, good data quality and research that compete with the best in the world. In total, 40,051 persons have taken part in at least one of the six studies, and 15,157 persons have taken part three or more times. In 2010, a whole group of adolescents were invited to take part in Fit Futures, a study of adolescents, and the second of these studies is now under way.
The two most widely publicised discoveries made by the Tromsø Study are the importance of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) for the cardiovascular system and how coffee stimulates an increase in serum cholesterol. A major clinical trial was carried out in which participants who had suffered heart attacks took vitamin B supplements. The trial disproved the theory that vitamin B supplements can reduce the number of new cardiovascular diseases, and in fact proved that the opposite is the case – that vitamin B supplements can be harmful. A correlation has also been identified between low bone density and arteriosclerosis, and a link between hardening of the carotid artery and bone fractures. Other important results include the discovery of a significant genetic component in auricular fibrillation. The study carried out in the autumn of 2011 revealed that women aged from 35 to 79 in Tromsø have shown an increasing number of initial heart attacks over the past 30 years, while the same figure for men has fallen. The explanation may be related to smoking and type 2 diabetes – extremely high risk factors in women.
Department of Community Medicine
Professor Tom Wilsgaard