Staying in education linked to lower risk of heart disease

August 31, 2017

Staying in education is associated with a lower risk of developing heart disease, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

The findings provide the strongest evidence to date that increasing the number of years that people spend in the education system may lower their risk of developing coronary heart disease by a substantial amount, say the authors.

Many studies have found that people who spend more time in education have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. However, this association may be due to confounding from other factors, such as diet or physical activity.

To date, it has been unclear if spending more time in education has any causal impact on heart disease--in other words, whether increasing education might prevent it.

To better understand the nature of this association, and help inform public policy, a team of international researchers from University College London, the University of Lausanne, and the University of Oxford set out to test whether education is a risk factor for the development of coronary heart disease.

They analysed 162 genetic variants already shown to be linked with years of schooling from 543,733 men and women, predominantly of European origin, using a technique called mendelian randomisation.

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

The authors found that genetic predisposition towards more time spent in education was associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease.

More specifically, 3.6 years of additional education, which is similar to an undergraduate university degree, would be predicted to translate into about a one third reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.

Genetic predisposition towards longer time spent in education was also associated with less likelihood of smoking, lower body mass index (BMI), and a more favourable blood fat profile.

And the authors suggest that these factors could account for part of the association found between education and coronary heart disease.

The results remained largely unchanged after further sensitivity analyses and are in line with findings from other studies, and the effect of raising the minimum school leaving age.

The authors outline some study limitations. For example, it is not fully understood how genetic variants cause changes to the length of time spent in education, and this could have introduced bias.

However, key strengths include the large sample size, use of genetic randomisation to minimise confounding.

They suggest that: "Increasing the number of years that people spend in the educational system may lower their risk of subsequently developing coronary heart disease by a substantial degree."

These findings "should stimulate policy discussions about increasing educational attainment in the general population to improve population health," they add.

A linked editorial suggests that, overall, the authors make a convincing case that a longer duration of education decreases risk of coronary heart disease in a causal manner.

Brent Richards at McGill University in Canada and colleagues say the results "are strong and robust to sensitivity tests, which probe most of the potential biases in the results. When taken together with other observational studies and quasi-experiments, their conclusions are convincing."
-end-


BMJ

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.