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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2010 Sep;64(9):821-8. doi: 10.1136/jech.2009.086926. Epub 2009 Oct 12.

Differences in the association of cardiovascular risk factors with education: a comparison of Costa Rica (CRELES) and the USA (NHANES).

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco 185 Berry Street, Lobby 3, Suite 6600, San Francisco, CA 94107, USA. drehkopf@gmail.com

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Despite different levels of economic development, Costa Rica and the USA have similar mortalities among adults. However, in the USA there are substantial differences in mortality by educational attainment, and in Costa Rica there are only minor differences. This contrast motivates an examination of behavioural and biological correlates underlying this difference.

METHODS:

The authors used data on adults aged 60 and above from the Costa Rican Longevity and Healthy Ageing Study (CRELES) (n=2827) and from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (n=5607) to analyse the cross-sectional association between educational level and the following risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD): ever smoked, current smoker, sedentary, high saturated fat, high carbohydrates, high calorie diet, obesity, severe obesity, large waist circumference, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, hemoglobin A1c, fasting glucose, C-reactive protein, systolic blood pressure and BMI.

RESULTS:

There were significantly fewer hazardous levels of risk biomarkers at higher levels of education for more than half (10 out of 17) of the risk factors in the USA, but for less than a third of the outcomes in Costa Rica (five out of 17).

CONCLUSIONS:

These results are consistent with the context-specific nature of educational differences in risk factors for CVD and with a non-uniform nature of association of CVD risk factors with education within countries. Our results also demonstrate that social equity in mortality is achieved without uniform equity in all risk factors.

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