CV Disease Linked to Education Level

John Commins, June 16, 2017

People with the lowest education level had higher lifetime risks of cardiovascular disease than those with the highest education level, research shows.

Educational attainment is one of the biggest socioeconomic factors contributing to cardiovascular disease, according to a study this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers led by Yasuhiko Kubota, MD, of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, examined the linkage between educational attainment and CVD risk by estimating lifetime risks of coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke in a large biracial study. The authors also looked at how income, occupation and parental education were associated with educational attainment and lifetime CVD risk.

The study included 13,948 whites and African-Americans, ages 45-64, who were tracked from 1987 through 2013, who were free of CVD. The subjects lived in Washington County, MD; Forsyth County, NC; Jackson, MS; and the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. The authors documented 4,512 CVD events and 2,401 non-CVD deaths.

In men, lifetime CVD risks from ages 45-85 ranged 59% for those with a grade school education to 42% for those with a graduate school education. In women, lifetime CVD risks ranged from 51% for those with a grade school education to 28% for those with graduate school degrees, the study found. In general, the more educated the person, the lower the risk of CVD, regardless of other socioeconomic factors including family income, occupation or parental education level.

Kubota’s team caution that lifetime risks of CVD should be interpreted carefully because they could be influenced by other CVD risk factors. “Even with such a proviso, our estimates of lifetime risk can help in elucidating the association between education and CVD risk,” the researchers said.

“More than 1 in 2 individuals with less than a high school education had a CVD event during his or her lifetime. Educational attainment was inversely associated with the lifetime risk of CVD, regardless of other important socioeconomic characteristics. Our findings emphasize the need for further efforts to reduce CVD inequalities related to educational disparities,” the researchers said.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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