Defining the Human Envirome: An Omics Approach for Assessing the Environmental Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Circ Res. 2018 Apr 27;122(9):1259-1275. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.117.311230.


Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, but in comparison with genetics, environmental factors have received less attention. Evaluation of environmental determinants of cardiovascular disease is limited by the lack of comprehensive omics approaches for integrating multiple environmental exposures. Hence, to understand the effects of the environment as a whole (envirome), it is important to delineate specific domains of the environment and to assess how, individually and collectively; these domains affect cardiovascular health. In this review, we present a hierarchical model of the envirome; defined by 3 consecutively nested domains, consisting of natural, social, and personal environments. Extensive evidence suggests that features of the natural environment such as sunlight, altitude, diurnal rhythms, vegetation, and biodiversity affect cardiovascular health. However, the effects of the natural environment are moderated by the social environment comprised of built environments, agricultural and industrial activities, pollutants and contaminants, as well as culture, economic activities, and social networks that affect health by influencing access to healthcare, social cohesion, and socioeconomic status. From resources available within society, individuals create personal environments, characterized by private income, wealth and education, and populated by behavioral and lifestyle choices relating to nutrition, physical activity, sleep, the use of recreational drugs, and smoking. An understanding of the interactions between different domains of the envirome and their integrated effects on cardiovascular health could lead to the development of new prevention strategies and deeper insights into etiologic processes that contribute to cardiovascular disease risk and susceptibility.

Keywords: air pollution; coronary artery disease; diet; exercise; smoking prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Environment*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Primary Prevention / methods
  • Risk
  • Risk Management
  • Social Environment