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Going to university halves risk of heart disease, 30-year study shows


Statistics show people with the worst education are much more likely to develop the cardiovascular condition.

Going to university slashes the risk of heart disease, particularly among women, new research shows. Statistics show people with the worst education are much more likely to develop the cardiovascular condition.

And a new analysis of this phenomenon reveals those who do not have a degree are almost twice as likely to contract it. Experts believe this is down to educated people choosing healthier lifestyles, and reaching higher-paid jobs, which means they can afford better healthcare.

Female graduates had a 28 percent lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) compared to almost 51 percent who did not go on to further education. The trend was also apparent in men, but not quite as dramatic. Those who went to university had a lifetime CDV risk of 42 percent, compared to 59 percent for those who didn’t.


Dr. Yasuhiko Kubota, of Minnesota University, said: “More than one in two individuals with less than high school education had a CVD event during his or her lifetime.”

In addition educational attainment was ‘inversely associated’ with CVD regardless of other important socio-economic factors including family income, occupation or parental education – meaning the better the education the lower the risk.

Previous research has suggested going to university staves off dementia with mental stimulation helping to build up ‘cognitive reserves’. Medical experts also say better educated people are more likely to choose healthier lifestyles.

This is in part because future returns – in terms of both health and lifetime earnings – are higher for graduates leading them to invest in a more healthy lifestyle.
They are less likely to smoke, abuse alcohol and will exercise more, eat healthier foods and have more frequent health checks than the average population.

The first study of its kind published by JAMA Internal Medicine said one of the most important socio-economic factors contributing to CVD is educational inequality.

Kubota and colleagues set out to calculate the lifetime risk of CVD – which includes coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke – according to educational levels to convey it.

So they looked at 13,948 white and African-American participants who were 45 to 64 years old at the start and free of CVD. They followed them from 1987 to 2013 – with some well in their 80s by the end.

During this time there were 4,512 CVD events – such as strokes or heart attacks – and 2,401 deaths that had no connection to cardiovascular disease. The researchers said lifetime risks of CVD should be interpreted carefully because they could be influenced by other factors.

But Kubota said: “Even with such a proviso, our estimates of lifetime risk can help in elucidating the association between education and CVD risk.”

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