Not Finishing School Can Put You At Risk For Heart Disease

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New research is showing that there appears to be a relationship between a person’s level of education and their risk of developing cardiovascular disease at some point in life.

Researchers led by Dr. Yasuhiko Kubota at the University of Minnesota carried out the first study of its kind earlier this year. The study was to determine if there is a correlation between the level of school an individual completes and their likelihood of developing some form of heart disease. Their results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine in June of this year, and contains some interesting findings.

The study was inspired by an earlier study titled “Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities” (ARIC) which was conducted from 1987 to 1989. In that study, all of the adults were aged 45 to 65 years old with no previous instances of heart disease. The researchers also gathered data about the income, education levels, and type of employment for all the study participants. The ARIC study has been repeated over the years. The research at the University of Minnesota analyzed data from almost 14,000 men and women in the United States all the way up to the year 2013, and focused primarily on educational attainment.

The researchers discovered that for people in the study who did not attend high school, the lifetime risk of developing heart disease was quite high: 55 percent. But the higher the levels of education a person completed, the lower their risk factor for heart disease fell. For instance, those who had completed graduate school had a lifetime risk of only 36 percent.

Further analysis seems to strengthen the case that more education meant a lower chance of developing heart disease. Women who had a high school diploma had a risk of experiencing heart disease at only 34 percent in their lifetime. Women who lacked a high school diploma however had a shocking 49 percent risk— a 15 percent increase. Men seemed to have a higher risk in general, with 47 percent for those with diplomas versus 55 percent for those without. A narrower margin to be sure, but still, the pattern remains consistent: those participants in the study who had higher levels of education had lower levels of heart disease across the board.

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So what’s going on here? What is the reason for this difference?

There are probably many factors at work. It could be because those who don’t complete higher levels of education unfortunately aren’t provided with access to information to make better nutritional and lifestyle choices. Every person’s situation is unique, but the variety of sociological and economic reasons behind this can be countered to some degree by free access to information over the internet.


Tips for reducing risk of heart disease

Regardless of what a person’s educational background is, everyone’s body is physiologically the same, and the same rules apply for staying healthy and reducing one’s risk of developing heart disease.

The first and most important factor is affecting someone’s risk of heart disease is their diet. Eating a good, heart-healthy diet is the number 1 thing you can do to defend against the risk of heart disease. Reduce your intake of foods with lots of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, by contrast, is very good for your health, along with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the typical Western diet is insufficient in. Foods that meet these criteria include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, avocados, eggs, and grass-fed beef. HDL cholesterol, far from being a contributor to heart disease, actually helps to lower your blood pressure, and reduces your risk of all forms of heart disease.

The other pillar of heart disease prevention is making sure that you are getting plenty of physical activity. The sedentary lifestyle millions of modern people lead is very unhealthy and unnatural. We are simply not meant to be taking in calories, never moving (and thus never burning those calories) and just staring at screens all day. Try to get 30-60 minutes of exercise a day. Even just a simple walk through your neighborhood goes a long way.


READ ALSO: 30 Surprising Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Heart Disease Infographic


What is great about the tips here is that they are available to anyone, regardless of their education level. No matter how much schooling you have, better heart health is within reach, if you arm yourself with the right knowledge and act upon it.