There is some very disconcerting, but certainly interesting, medical news that relates directly to the working poor in the United States:
People with lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to develop heart disease than those who are wealthier or better educated, according to a recent UC Davis study. Published online in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, the outcomes also show that this risk persists even with long-term progress in addressing traditional risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol.
"Being poor or having less than a high school education can be regarded as an extra risk when assessing a patient's chances of developing cardiovascular disease," said Peter Franks, a UC Davis professor of family and community medicine and lead author of the study. "People with low socioeconomic status need to have their heart-disease indicators managed more aggressively."
Using data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, authors of the current study included information on more than 12,000 people aged 45 to 64 years living in North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota and Maryland. Participants reported their education and income levels in 1987, and then over the course of 10 years were periodically evaluated for heart-disease diagnoses and changes in their risk factors, including cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking.
The results indicated that people with lower socioeconomic status had a 50 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than other study participants.
According to Franks, although it is known that people with low socioeconomic status have a greater risk for developing heart disease and other health problems, the reason is often attributed to reduced health-care access or poor adherence to treatments such as smoking cessation or medication. This study showed for the first time that the increased risk endured despite long-term improvements in other risk factors, indicating that access and adherence could not account for the differences.
"Low socioeconomic status is a heart-disease risk factor on its own and needs to be regarded as such by the medical community," Franks said.
50%?! That is outrageous. And what is interesting is the idea that socioeconomic status should be considered right off the bat when assessing potential heart disease. They may even give higher doses of cholesterol-lowering medicine to those with lower incomes.
This could, potentially, become a sticky issue. Treating people differently based on class has long been considered unfair, but in this instance it is in efforts to keep the poor healthy and safe.
What do you think about this study? We'd love to hear from you below.
[Photo by Tiffany]