Heart Attack Risk Halved for People With a College Degree

New research from the Sax Institute in Australia indicates that people who graduate from college are half as likely to have a heart attack as people of the same age who lack a college degree. This finding came from a study of healthy aging that examined residents of New South Wales who were 45 to 64 years old.

The heart attack risk for people who had at most a high school degree was around 150% higher than for those who completed college. People with an intermediate level of education had a risk that was 70% higher than that of college graduates.

The researchers identified a similar pattern for stroke risk. Middle-aged adults who did not complete high school had a 50% higher risk for a first stroke than those with a college degree. People in this age group who had intermediate levels of education were 20% more likely to have a stroke than their college-educated peers.

Household income also correlated with cardiovascular disease events. People who made less money were substantially more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

Heart disease is the major cause of death in Australia, and the researchers expect that additional epidemiological work will help to tease out the specific factors that result in cardiovascular events among less educated Australians.

The research strongly suggests that heart attack and stroke risk could be reduced once more is known about the causes. What is clear is that a good education influences the type of jobs, where people live, and what they eat. People with a lower level of education are also much more likely to smoke tobacco.

The study followed more than 267,000 men and women who were 45 years or older for more than five years. The research was published in the International Journal for Equity in Health.