"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," lead author Peter Franks, a professor at the University of California, Davis, says in a statement.
"People with low socioeconomic status need to have their heart-disease indicators managed more aggressively."
The researchers used data from 12,000 people age 45-64 living in North Carolina, Mississippi, Minnesota and Maryland. Participants reported their education and income levels in 1987, and were then tracked for 10 years for heart-disease diagnoses and changes in their risk factors, including cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking.
The study, published online in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, indicated people with lower socioeconomic status had a 50 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than other study participants.
"It is known people with low socioeconomic status have a greater risk for developing heart disease and other health problems, the reason is often attributed to reduced healthcare access or poor adherence to treatments such as smoking cessation or medication," Franks says. "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."