Summer Study: Cardiovascular Complications in the CTS

About the Author

My name is Julie Macias, and I am a university student majoring in biomedical engineering. I have always dreamed of working in a research lab and becoming a biomedical engineer. As a biomedical engineer, I have developed new skillsets and knowledge that I can use to serve others. After having several family members suffer from cardiovascular complications, I decided that I wanted to dedicate my career to helping patients with cardiovascular disease. Under the leadership of Dr. Sophia Wang, I was given the opportunity this summer to examine the occurrence of cardiovascular endpoints among CTS participants.

My Research Project

Previous research has linked air pollution to diseases that increase with age, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and stroke. Older women outnumber men by a 3:2 ratio, and overall CVD risk in women rises after menopause. Stroke risk in women doubles after menopause, particularly in the first 10 years, making postmenopausal women an especially vulnerable population for stroke events.

This project was part of a larger grant that will examine the intersection of extreme weather events, air pollution, and cardiovascular complications in an aging female population. We utilized ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes to identify diagnoses and procedures associated with various cardiovascular endpoints, including stroke and myocardial infarction. ICD codes are standardized, international diagnostic codes that are used to keep disease and injury diagnoses consistent across providers.

In addition to looking at how common these different conditions were among CTS participants, we also wanted to see whether participant characteristics were associated with risk of cardiovascular complications. We considered participants’ race and ethnicity, the age at event (meaning the age at which they were diagnosed with CVD or had a stroke), their socioeconomic status, menopausal status, previously diagnosed health conditions, family history, and their BMI. Using this information, we show that the occurrence of stroke and MI increased with age. However, it was interesting to also note that stroke and MI both occur in all age strata.

Future Goals

I have gained many valuable experiences that will help make a difference in future cardiovascular research and in my own future courses. As someone who is majoring in a STEM (scientific, technology, engineer, and math) field, I knew when I started this internship that I could benefit from new perspectives and ideas; I hoped this internship would give me skills that I could take back to implement in my community and communities around the world. Giving back to people in countries that need the most help is how I plan to change the world. I plan to continue my career in cardiovascular research and design and develop devices and platforms that can be used within the human body for patients with cardiovascular complications. Designing cardiovascular devices that are affordable and will have a long duration is one of my main goals of my career.