Heart Health Rises With Education in Rich Nations

TUESDAY Sept. 7, 2010 -- A higher level of education is associated with reduced risk of heart disease and stroke for people who live in rich countries, but not for those in low- and middle-income nations, finds a new study.

Highly educated men in high-income countries had the lowest level of cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers. The findings show that the results of research conducted in richer nations can't be applied to poorer nations.

"We can't simply take studies that are conducted in high-income countries, particularly as they relate to socioeconomic status and health outcomes, and extrapolate them to low- and middle-income countries. We need dedicated studies in those settings," Dr. Abhinav Goyal, an assistant professor of epidemiology and medicine (cardiology) at Emory Rollins School of Public Health and Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, said in an American Heart Association news release.

Goyal is lead author of a two-year study that included more than 61,000 people from 44 countries who were diagnosed with heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure, obesity, clogged blood vessels and smoking.

The researchers were surprised to find that nearly half of highly educated women in high-income countries smoked, compared with 35 percent of those with the least amount of education. In middle- and low-income countries, 21 percent of highly educated women smoked, compared with 14 percent of those with the least education.

"We can't assume that just because certain groups are more educated than others that they're going to have healthier lifestyles. Everyone needs to be educated about the risk of heart disease in particular and counseled to adopt healthy lifestyles and to quit smoking," Goyal said.

Among men in high-income countries, 66 percent of those with the most education smoked, compared to 75 percent of those with the least education. In low- and middle-income countries, smoking rates were similar for men of all education levels, the study found.

The study was published Sept. 7 in the journal Circulation.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart disease risk factors.

Posted: September 2010


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