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heart disease

Low educational levels predict an increased risk of developing or dying from heart disease and stroke according to the first nationwide (Denmark) study of the link between education and risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, which is published in the European Heart Journal today, is also the first Danish nationwide study to look at the extent to which low income and work stress plays a role in the association between education and cardiovascular disease.

It found that low income and work stress could explain between 21-54% of the increased risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease among people with and without cardiovascular or metabolic diseases at the start of the study.

Researchers led by Dr. Elisabeth Framke at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, Denmark, analysed data from 1,638,270 Danish residents aged 30 to 59 in 2000 who did not have cardiovascular disease or diabetes at the start of the study.

Dr. Framke said: “We found that among healthy individuals, those with a low educational level have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those with a high educational level. Among 10,000 men with low education, 61 would develop a cardiovascular disease within 12 months, whereas among 10,000 men with high education, only 34 would develop the disease within this time-frame.

“Among women, the picture is similar, although working-age women have a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men.

The researchers found a similar pattern when they looked at people who had cardiovascular disease or diabetes when the study started. Men and women with a low educational level had a 1.52-fold and 2.18-fold higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease respectively than men and women with a high educational level.

“Our interpretation of these findings is that low income and high job strain may play a role in how low educational level affects the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, but that also a considerable part of this association is independent of income and job strain,” said Dr. Framke.

For Study Detail: Elisabeth Framke et al, Contribution of income and job strain to the association between education and cardiovascular disease in 1.6 million Danish employees, European Heart Journal (2019). DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehz870

Provided by European Society of Cardiology

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