Education, Income Affect Heart Attack Survival Rates

WEDNESDAY June 25, 2008 -- Being well-off and well-educated may improve your chances of surviving a heart attack, according to new report.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic, studying medical records of heart attack patients from its home base of Olmsted County, Minn., report that those with lower incomes and less education were more likely to die after the attack than their more affluent, educated counterparts.

The study, published in the June issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked 705 people -- 155 of whom died -- between Nov. 1, 2002 and May 31, 2006. Their findings include that:

  • People with the lowest income had the worse one-year survival estimates, with 75 percent survival among people earning $28,732 to $44,665; 83 percent survival for those earning $49,435 to $53,561; and 86 percent for people in the $56,992 to $74,034 income bracket.
  • The level of an individual's education also coincided with survival rates: 67 percent among those who had fewer than 12 years of education; 81 percent among people with 12 years of education; and 85 percent for those with more than 12 years of education.

"Interestingly, despite the higher-than-average socioeconomic status of this population, the associations of individual education and neighborhood income with death after heart attack were stronger than those reported in many previous studies," Mayo Clinic cardiovascular researcher Yariv Gerber, the study's lead author, said in a prepared statement.

The education link could be tied to how greater education tends to positively affect job opportunities, income, housing, access to nutritious foods and health insurance, the researchers noted.

"Higher levels of education also could directly affect health through greater knowledge acquired during schooling and greater empowerment and self-efficacy," Gerber said. "As recently reported, education is strongly associated with health literacy, which in turn affects one's ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."

The researchers also said linking low socioeconomic status to heart attack survival could be tied to poorer, less-educated individuals having difficultly attending cardiac rehabilitation programs and keeping up with medications and recommended changes in lifestyle.

Posted: June 2008


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