A new study suggests that the socio-economic status of patients must be considered while evaluating their risk for heart disease.
The study, conducted by University of Rochester Medical Center researchers, found that the current model that most doctors use to assess risk, known as Framingham Risk Scoring (FRS), does not accurately predict whether a person of low income and/or less than a high school education will develop heart disease or die in the next 10 years.
The FRS tool is limited to measuring data such as overall cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels, blood pressure, age and smoking status.
During the study, when socio-economic factors were added into the FRS risk assessment, however, the proportion of low-income and low-education patients at risk for death or disease during the next 10 years was nearly double that of people with higher socio-economic status.
Thus, from a clinical perspective, asking about socio-economic status when evaluating risk factors potentially increases the number of patients eligible for cholesterol-lowering medications, aspirin therapy, and supervised changes in diet and exercise, by about 15 percent, the researchers said.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the effect of adding socio-economic status to the typical risk assessment in the United States," said lead author Kevin Fiscella, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Family Medicine and Community and Preventive Medicine at URMC, and a national expert on disparities in health care.
"We have overwhelming evidence that cholesterol-lowering pills greatly reduce mortality. Our study clearly implies that we should recalibrate the threshold for deciding who's eligible for statins, by including socio-economic status as another risk factor," Fiscella added.
The study has been published in the June 2009 American Heart Journal.