ULTIMO, Australia, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A new study has found that people without a college degree are twice as likely to have a heart attack than college graduates.
Researchers at the Sax Institute in Ultimo, Australia, investigated the link between education and cardiovascular disease episodes such as heart attack or stroke in the Institute's 45 and Up Study.
For the study, 267,153 men and women over 45 in the state of New South Wales were followed for more than five years.
The findings were published in the International Journal for Equity in Health and presented at the Cardiovascular Disease Inequalities Partnership Project meeting in Canberra.
"Our study found that in adults aged 45-64 years, heart attack rates among those with no educational qualifications were more than double (around 150 percent higher) those of people with a university degree," Dr. Rosemary Korda, lead researcher and Fellow at the National Center for Epidemiology and Population Health at The Australian National University, said in a press release. "Mid-age adults who hadn't completed high school were 50 percent more likely to have a first stroke than those with a university degree; those with intermediate level of education (non-university qualifications) were 20 percent more likely."
Similar patterns existed between household income and cardiovascular disease events.
Professor Emily Banks, scientific director of the 45 and Up Study and head of Epidemiology for Policy and Practice at ANU, stated in a press release that the findings show the value of the 45 and Up Study in making it possible for researchers to investigate big questions in large numbers of people to get faster results for policy makers.
"This research demonstrates, now that we have more robust data, how much worse the inequalities in cardiovascular disease are than we previously thought," Banks said. "This research also provides important clues about how much cardiovascular disease can be prevented."
Kerry Doyle, CEO of the Heart Foundation New South Wales, said in a press release that heart disease was the single leading cause of death in Australia.
"We know that a good education impacts long-term health by influencing what type of job you have, where you live and what food choices you make," Doyle said. "This research provides an opportunity to further unpack the specific relationship between educational achievement and cardiovascular disease risk, and what can be done to reduce this risk."