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Analytic Methods in Project HeartBeat!

      Abstract

      Project HeartBeat! (1991–1995) was an observational study of the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors in childhood and adolescence using an accelerated longitudinal design. The purpose of this paper is to explain the analytic methods used in the study, particularly multilevel statistical models. Measurements of hemodynamic, lipid, anthropometric, and other variables were obtained in 678 children who were enrolled in three cohorts (baseline ages 8, 11, and 14 years) and followed for 4 years, resulting in data for children aged 8–18 years. Patterns of change of blood pressure, serum lipid concentration, and obesity with age, race, and gender were of particular interest.
      The design specified 12 measurements of each outcome variable per child. Multilevel models were used to account for correlations resulting from repeated measurements on individuals and to allow use of data from incomplete cases. Data quality–control measures are described, and an example of multilevel analysis in Project HeartBeat! is presented. Multilevel models were also used to show that there were no differences attributable to the cohorts, and combining data from the three age cohorts was judged to be reasonable. Anthropometric data were compared with national norms and shown to have similar patterns; thus, the patterns seen in the CVD risk factors may be generalized, with some caveats, to the U.S. population of children.
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