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Education and Income Closely Linked to Heart Disease Risk in African Americans

CardioSmart News

Income and education help reduce risk for heart disease in African-Americans, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

It’s well known that factors like education, income and wealth play an important role in overall health. Social position can influence a person’s behavior, impacting decisions related to diet, exercise and smoking. Over time, these lifestyle choices either promote good health or contribute to increased risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Since African-Americans already face a disproportionately high risk for heart disease compared to whites, experts wondered how social standing further impacts cardiovascular risk.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from the Jackson Heart Study, which follows African-American adults from metropolitan areas in Jackson, MS. A total of 5,301 adults participated in the study. They ranged in age from 21 to 94 years old and had varying levels of education and income. Starting in 2000, researchers began enrolling participants and tracked key outcomes like heart attack and stroke.

After following subjects for more than seven years, researchers found that education and income had a strong influence on risk for heart disease, especially in women and younger adults. Women with lower income had nearly 2.5 times greater risk of heart attack and stroke compared to high income women. Lower levels of education and income in adults under 50 more than tripled cardiovascular risk, compared to a 90% increase in cardiovascular risk in older adults. Interestingly, researchers also found that income had a stronger influence on cardiovascular risk than education in African-Americans.

Study findings support evidence that education and wealth impact more than just social standing. These factors can put African-Americans at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

But it’s not money that directly impacts heart health—it’s factors like lifestyle choices, insurance, and access to health care that are related to both income and health. To address this issue, experts encourage education and programming to promote healthy lifestyle choices, especially in low-income communities. Not only is there a need for increased awareness about heart disease, but policies are needed to make it safer, easier, and more affordable to make heart-healthy choices in high-risk populations.

Learn about CardioSmart's editorial process. Information provided for educational purposes only. Please talk to your health care professional about your specific needs.