Heart disease is a major cause of death both in the United States and worldwide. Heart disease can be caused by your lifestyle choices such as unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, being overweight and smoking. But do you know heart disease can be related to how long you stay in school?
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that education level can influence people's risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
About the study
The researchers studied 6,318 older adults in three Atlanta-based hospitals who were diagnosed and assessed heart problems, asked their education levels along with other demographic details and medical history, and then followed them for four years.
It turned out that compared to people with graduate degrees, those who had lower education levels had a higher risk of heart attack, dying from a cardiovascular event, and overall death.
Specifically, compared to people with graduate degrees:
—People with elementary or middle school education had a 52% higher risk
—People with high school education had a 43% higher risk
—People with college education had a 26% higher risk
The meaning of the study
After adjusting for traditional cardiovascular risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure and smoking, and other demographic characteristics including sex and income level, the higher risk remained. This means education level influenced heart disease risk independently.
"What's striking is how important the role of education is," the study's senior author, Dr. Arshed Quyyumi said. "Most of us practitioners, we don't ask patients for their educational levels when we're seeing them — and we don't take any added precautions when you find that somebody may not be as well educated as another person."
The results show a need for increased awareness among doctors. Doctors should be more active to make sure heart patients are taking medicine and making recommended lifestyle changes to lower risk.
The results also show the link between a person's health and social determinants, including:
These factors influence where and how people live, learn, work and play. Doctors should pay more attention to the influence of social determinants on patients. Education, along with income, housing density, violence and stress can be essential to one's health.