AHA News: Higher Ed May Boost Heart Health – But Not Equally for All Races, Ethnicities

More education is linked to better heart health, but it may not overcome the effects of sweat, a new study said.

The research, which used data from a large national survey to examine the overlapping links between race, education and cardiovascular health, found that while whites saw a significant benefit from higher education, other racial and ethnic groups saw a smaller decline.

“Some of the research that has been released previously has suggested that we can overcome inequality based on race through better education,” said study co-author Dr. Amber Johnson, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. . “And this study shows the opposite.”

Johnson said previous studies have looked at race, heart health, education, and heart health. “But how these two things interact to predict outcomes has been less clear.”

The new study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, examined this triple interaction.

The study used responses from 7,771 people who participated in the National Long-Term Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. About 69% of them were white.

The researchers measured heart health with a score derived from seven well-established metrics, such as smoking, blood pressure, and physical activity.

When researchers compared education levels to these measures, they found that people who had completed college had more than four times the odds of getting an ideal heart health score than those who had not completed high school.

But when the researchers divided the numbers by race and ethnicity, the differences emerged.

For white people, earning a college degree still improved the odds of a healthy heart rate more than fourfold. But blacks at the same education level saw only a two-fold improvement.

For white participants, having a high school diploma or its equivalent increases the odds of getting a high heart health score by nearly 50%. No other racial or ethnic group sees such an advantage at this level.

Asian and Hispanic participants did not get the same degree of health benefits from education as their white counterparts. The researchers speculated that among Asians, the benefits might appear to be low because heart health scores and education levels were initially higher.

Johnson said the researchers took into account variables such as income, whether people had health insurance and whether they had access to regular health care. “And despite adjusting to these things, our findings remain the same.”

Johnson said the study was not designed to identify the root cause of the differences, but that such discrepancies have emerged elsewhere. “And what a lot of ethnologists think is that it has to do with racism.”

Although the findings were not necessarily new, few studies have attempted to look more closely at how race, health and education intersect, said Dr. Rita Hamad, an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco who led research examining education levels and health. .

Understanding how to do this is “certainly important, especially these days when we talk about the importance of social factors to health in general, but also heart disease specifically, especially the role of race and racism,” said Hamad, a social and racial epidemiologist. The family doctor who was not involved in the study.

She said that blacks may not reap the benefits of education in the same way as whites. Historically, the quality of education available to blacks has been much lower than that available to whites.

And even when black students are able to get the same level of education as white students, “we still know that when they leave school, there is discrimination in hiring processes, in getting safe housing — because of things like redlining — and in medical settings, even that Even a highly educated black person might not be able to benefit from this education as much as a white person with a higher education.”

Hamad said this had nothing to do with DNA. “We know that it’s not something biology or genetics that is preventing black people from reaching the same level of heart health, but rather structural racism.”

She said the study suggests that health care professionals should be sensitive about the ways in which structural racism in black medical settings, including those with a higher education, may prevent optimal heart health.

Johnson said the new findings showed that while individual lifestyle choices are important, people can’t be blamed for the problems that arise from a lack of education.

“In an ideal world, cardiovascular health should be achievable by everyone,” Johnson said. “It shouldn’t be about how much money you make, how much education you have, or what color your skin is. This research is useful for showing us patterns within the society we currently live in.”

Written by Michael Marshall

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