Researchers have known for some time that there’s a strong link between social class and heart disease — specifically, the lower your social class, the higher your overall risk of heart disease. One U.S. study found that the longer a person spends in poverty over the course of his or her life, the likelier he or she is to develop heart disease. Those who lived in poverty during both childhood and adulthood were more likely to develop heart disease than those who enjoyed financial stability as children and adults. Researchers say that’s because the less fortunate pile up more risk factors for heart disease, including tobacco use and obesity.
A recent University of Cambridge study looked at the link between socioeconomic status and LDL cholesterol levels, an indicator of heart disease. The Cambridge researchers also looked at study participants’ occupational status — whether they or their spouses worked in manual labor jobs or in the non-manual sector — and their levels of educational achievement. The researchers found that, while men in manual labor jobs have slightly lower cholesterol levels than those in non-manual jobs, women who have completed higher education have significantly lower LDL-cholesterol levels than their less-educated counterparts.
Poor People Are More Likely to Suffer From Heart Disease
Multiple studies have shown that poverty increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease. In one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers followed 1,800 American adults and found that, the more time a given person spends living in poverty over the course of his or her life, the more likely he or she is to develop heart disease. Lead researcher Dr. Eric B. Loucks believes that’s because people who live in poverty are more likely to abuse tobacco and substances and are more likely to suffer from overweight and obesity. People living in poverty may have trouble affording the medical care they need to prevent cardiovascular disease. If you’re having trouble fitting medical care into your budget, online pharmacies can help you save money on cholesterol medication.
Dr. Loucks found that even childhood poverty can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease, even if that person manages to climb out of poverty in adulthood. Of course, remaining in poverty throughout adulthood carries the highest risk of cardiovascular disease — those who lived in poverty throughout childhood and adulthood were 82 percent more likely to develop heart disease. The results of this study suggest that helping Americans escape poverty can not only help them protect their own heart health, but help protect their children and grandchildren from cardiovascular disease.
Other studies support the lifelong link between poverty and heart disease. A University College London Medical School study found that British men and women who belong to the lower social classes are more likely to experience coronary artery calcification, a symptom of coronary artery disease. The researchers found that the link remained strong even after controlling for other risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical activity and smoking. The study involved 149 women and men between the ages of 30 and 40. Researchers say that the results of this study underscore the importance of developing heart-healthy habits at a young age, since the study participants were relatively young at the time of the study.
Education Protects Women From Heart Disease
Gender also has an effect on heart health, with women in general having higher blood cholesterol levels than men. But a University of Cambridge study recently published in the journal BMC Public Health found that education can protect women from cardiovascular disease.
The University of Cambridge study, unlike previous studies of its kind, used multiple factors to assess socioeconomic status among the 22,451 British participants aged 39 to 79. In addition to indicating their BMIs and alcohol consumption levels, participants also answered questions pertaining to their social class, the general level of deprivation in their respective neighborhoods, and their educational attainment levels.
The women studied still had higher cholesterol levels than the men studied. Men who worked manual labor jobs were found to have lower cholesterol levels than their counterparts who worked in more sedentary careers, perhaps because of their overall higher levels of physical activity. While men who worked manual labor jobs had lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol than those in non-manual positions, the researchers found that these men also demonstrated lower levels of HDL, or “good,” cholesterol, meaning that they are probably still at an increased risk of heart disease.
Among the women, however, those who had completed higher education were found to have drastically better blood cholesterol profiles than those who had not pursued a higher degree. Less-educated women were found to have much higher LDL-cholesterol levels even when the researchers controlled for other risk factors like alcohol use and overweight or obesity.
Researchers have long known that social class and heart disease are linked — the more years of your life you spend in poverty, the more likely you are to develop heart disease. But researchers from the University of Cambridge have some good news — if you’re a woman, you can lower your risk of heart disease by attaining a university education.