The longer a person remains in poverty, the more likely he or she is to develop heart disease, a new study suggests.
Studies in developed countries have consistently shown that people with low incomes and less education generally have higher rates of heart disease than their more-educated, higher-income counterparts.
In this latest study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that lifelong disadvantage may translate into an “accumulation of risk” for heart disease.
The study included 1,835 men and women who were followed between 1971 and 2003. During that time, 144 developed heart-artery blockages, suffered a heart attack or died from heart disease.
The researchers gave each participant a “score” for lifelong socioeconomic status — using fathers’ education as an indicator of childhood status, and participants’ own education and job as a measure of adulthood status. Overall, the researchers found, men and women with the greatest lifelong exposure to poverty faced the greatest heart risks.
The findings underscore the potential importance of heart-disease prevention and treatment in people who have faced lifelong disadvantage.
That could take two types of approaches. Improving educational and economic opportunities for Americans, he said, could eventually improve their heart health — not only for adults today, but for future generations if parents’ education does in fact influence their children’s long-term heart risks.
Source: American Journal of Epidemiology