Nav: Home

Lifestyle explains part of the protective effect of education on heart disease

May 22, 2019

Lifestyle factors, such as weight, blood pressure and smoking, explain around 40% of the protective effect of education on heart disease risk in later life, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

The results suggest that intervening on these "modifiable" risk factors would lead to reductions in cases of heart disease as a result of lower educational achievement.

But the researchers point out that more than half of this protective effect still remains unexplained and requires further investigation.

We already know that lower levels of education are directly related to higher cardiovascular risk in later life. But educational opportunities aren't the same for everyone, so the key to improving heart health in later life may lie in tackling the risk factors that drive these poorer outcomes.

To test this theory, an international team of researchers set out to investigate the role of body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure and smoking in explaining the protective effect of education on cardiovascular risk.

They carried out observational and genetic analysis of data from over 200,000 adults in the UK Biobank - a large population based study of more than half a million British men and women, in addition to a two-sample Mendelian randomisation approach from predominantly European studies.

This technique uses genetic information to avoid some of the problems that afflict observational studies, making the results less prone to unmeasured (confounding) factors, and therefore more likely to be reliable in understanding cause and effect.

In both observational and Mendelian randomisation analyses, the researchers found consistent evidence that BMI, blood pressure and smoking mediated the effect of education, explaining up to 18%, 27% and 34% respectively.

When all three risk factors were combined, they explained around 40% of the relationship between education and cardiovascular disease. And similar results were found for risk of stroke, heart attack, and all other types of cardiovascular disease.

As such, the researchers suggest that intervening on these risk factors "would lead to reductions in cardiovascular disease attributable to lower levels of education." But they say it is important to note that over half of the overall effect of education remain unexplained.

They point to some study limitations, for example the main analysis did not consider factors such as exercise, diet, cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and as participants were mostly white Europeans, findings may not be applicable to other populations.

Nevertheless, they stress that results were consistent across the two approaches and in additional sensitivity analyses,suggesting that the findings are robust.

These findings have "notable implications for policymakers as they identify potential strategies for reducing education inequalities in health," write the authors.

Further research identifying other related factors and the interplay between them - and in more diverse populations - will be key to reducing inequalities in cardiovascular disease, they conclude.


Related Heart Disease Articles:

Where you live could determine risk of heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease
People living in parts of Ontario with better access to preventive health care had lower rates of cardiac events compared to residents of regions with less access, found a new study published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
Older adults with heart disease can become more independent and heart healthy with physical activity
Improving physical function among older adults with heart disease helps heart health and even the oldest have a better quality of life and greater independence.
Dietary factors associated with substantial proportion of deaths from heart disease, stroke, and disease
Nearly half of all deaths due to heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes in the US in 2012 were associated with suboptimal consumption of certain dietary factors, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.
Certain heart fat associated with higher risk of heart disease in postmenopausal women
For the first time, researchers have pinpointed a type of heart fat, linked it to a risk factor for heart disease and shown that menopausal status and estrogen levels are critical modifying factors of its associated risk in women.
Maternal chronic disease linked to higher rates of congenital heart disease in babies
Pregnant women with congenital heart defects or type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of giving birth to babies with severe congenital heart disease and should be monitored closely in the prenatal period, according to a study published in CMAJ.
More Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...