Researchers have long under­stood that having cer­tain dis­eases, like dia­betes, increases your risk for having other dis­eases, like high blood pressure.

Now a team of researchers from North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and Har­vard Uni­ver­sity has cre­ated a map that visu­ally shows these “dis­ease asso­ci­a­tions” in a sample of more than 30 mil­lion people. Built from data included in insur­ance claims, the map—called the Phe­no­typic Dis­ease Network—is the largest disease-​​network data­base ever built.

The map has been made pub­licly avail­able at an inter­ac­tive web­site (http://​hudine​.neu​.edu), which even allows site vis­i­tors to com­pare the strength of spe­cific dis­ease asso­ci­a­tions shown by men and women of dif­ferent ethnicities.

Experts believe that studying link­ages like these could greatly expand med­ical knowl­edge. According to study co-​​author Albert-​​László Barabási, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of physics and director of Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research, exam­ining dis­ease asso­ci­a­tions may be “a viable path toward elu­ci­dating the ori­gins of spe­cific diseases.”

Map­ping dis­ease net­works using dig­ital med­ical records dra­mat­i­cally changes the way we under­stand dis­eases in gen­eral,” said César Hidalgo, researcher at Har­vard University’s Center for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment and lead author of the study. “Dis­ease net­works can also be used to inform patients of dis­eases they may be at risk of devel­oping. This opens new poten­tial appli­ca­tions and oppor­tu­ni­ties for dig­ital med­ical records.”

The team’s find­ings have been pub­lished in a paper titled “A dynamic net­work approach for the study of human phe­no­types,” which appears in the cur­rent issue of the journal “Public Library of Sci­ence (PLoS) Com­pu­ta­tional Biology.”

Among other results, the researchers also found that patients affected by dis­eases con­nected to other dis­eases tend to die sooner than those affected by less-​​connected diseases.