Better Education Leads to a Better Heart

If you did better and stayed longer in school, the chances are that you will do much better with your heart and its good health. There have been a couple of studies over the years that have linked higher education with reduced chances of heart risks.

In 2010, Dr Abhinav Goyal and his colleagues from Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia assessed 61,332 patients covering 44 countries to conclude that the risk of cardiovascular disease reduced with higher education. However, the study found that this association worked only for those who resided in the high-income countries.

The patients in this study included those with previously diagnosed heart problems as well as those with known contributing risk factors. In addition to it, formal education information was also collected and thereafter, participants were tracked for two years. In high-income countries, education led to higher income and better access to healthcare along with improved knowledge about heart conditions leading to protection against health risks. But, in middle and low-income countries education didn’t always translate to better protection largely owing to factors such as less independence and empowerment of women, and smoking habits.

In the same year, the European Society of Cardiology published the results of a large scale study suggesting that in comparison to better-educated people, lesser educated people were more likely to be hospitalized for chronic heart failure. The study took account of all the factors of differences in lifestyle and was published in Dec. 2010.

While the previous study presented the problem of extrapolation of results from high-income groups to lower ones, the latter study examines the relationship between socioeconomic factors and the risk of developing heart failure. This research followed 18,616 people over 31 years from 1976 to 2007 and found better-educated people nearly halved their risk of heart failure related hospitalization than poorly educated ones. After the adjustments of various risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, it was found that people with more than 10 years of education stood at 39% lower risk of hospital admission due to heart failure compared to people with less than eight years of education and, those with education duration between eight to 10 years had a 25% lower risk of them. The study clarifies that deprivation, as measured by level or duration of education, should be regarded as a risk factor for heart failure.

Another research published in 2016 conducted by the Sax Institute, Australia covered 267, 153 people aged over 45 years and followed them for over five years. The research showed that the lower education levels increased the likeliness of heart attack or stroke, putting people with no educational qualifications at a 150% higher risk compared to those with university degrees, and this percentage came down to 70% for people with intermediate levels of educations. This shows how inequalities fare in cardiovascular disease risks and how by addressing these socioeconomic factors much of these events can be prevented.

The latest study reaffirming this relationship was published by Dr Yasuhiko Kubota, University of Minnesota, with data from nearly 14,000 white and black Americans, tracked from 1987 through 2013. Cardiovascular disease among men with grade school education stood at 59% whereas those with a graduate degree at 42%. And, among women, 51% with grade school education suffered heart diseases compared to just 28% who had graduate degrees.

Cardiologists tend to agree with the research findings associating higher education with lower levels of cardiovascular health risks simply because better education leads to better life. High education means better knowledge leading to healthier behaviors, better jobs and still better working conditions, and mostly a higher income providing better access to healthcare. Patients with lower education levels may need their heart health risk indicators to be managed more aggressively and at their specific understanding level corresponding to their level of education.

These studies do not prove a cause and effect relationship but show a link where better education levels translate to better heart health. And, with a clear idea of how education affects the cardiovascular health paradigm, there could be targeted teaching moments promoting healthier lifestyle choices.

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