Poor people are more likely to develop heart disease than those who are wealthy or better educated, finds a new study.
The study 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 socio-economic status need to have their heart-disease indicators managed more aggressively," he stated.
According to Franks, although it is known that people with low socio-economic 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.
But his 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 socio-economic status is a heart-disease risk factor on its own and needs to be regarded as such by the medical community," Franks said.
According to him, social disadvantages and adversity in childhood may result in lasting adaptations to stress that take a bigger toll on the heart. Cumulative effects of social disadvantage throughout the lifespan could also cause more "wear and tear" on the cardiovascular system.
The study was published online in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders.