Education level may predict risk of dying for people with heart disease

Photo of the back view of five graduates in black cap and gown.

By American Heart Association News

How long people stay in school may play a significant role in predicting how well those with coronary heart disease will fare, according to new research that linked lower levels of school completion with a higher risk of heart attack and death.

Education level has been known to influence people’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The new study examines just how much of a factor it plays among people with established coronary artery disease, which is caused by a buildup of cholesterol and fatty plaque deposits in the heart’s arteries.

Researchers looked at 6,318 older adults in three Atlanta-based hospitals who underwent a procedure to diagnose and assess problems in coronary arteries. Each person was asked about the highest level of education completed, along with other demographic details and medical history. They were then followed for four years.

Among the study’s participants, 16% had received a graduate degree, 42% finished college, 38% completed high school and 4% made it through elementary or middle school.

Researchers found that compared to people with graduate degrees, those with lower educational attainment appeared to have a higher risk of heart attack, dying from a cardiovascular event, and overall death.

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