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PLoS One. 2012;7(5):e37158. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0037158. Epub 2012 May 29.

Socioeconomic inequalities in the prevalence of nine established cardiovascular risk factors in a southern European population.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Predictive Medicine and Public Health, University of Porto Medical School, Porto, Portugal. lalves@med.up.pt

Abstract

The evaluation of the gender-specific prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors across socioeconomic position (SEP) categories may unravel mechanisms involved in the development of coronary heart disease. Using a sample of 1704 community dwellers of a Portuguese urban center aged 40 years or older, assessed in 1999-2003, we quantified the age-standardized prevalence of nine established cardiovascular risk factors (diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, sedentariness, abdominal obesity, poor diet, excessive alcohol intake and depression) across SEP and gender categories. Data on individual education and occupation were collected by questionnaire and used to characterize SEP. The prevalence of seven out of nine well-established risk factors was higher in men. Among women, the prevalence of most of the studied risk factors was higher in lower SEP groups. The main exception was smoking, which increased with education and occupation levels. Among men, socioeconomic gradients were less clear, but lower SEP was associated with a higher prevalence of diabetes, excessive alcohol intake and depression in a graded mode. The historical cultural beliefs and practices captured throughout the lifecourse frame the wide socioeconomic gradients discernible in our study conducted in an unequal European developed population. While men were more exposed to most risk factors, the clearer associations between SEP and risk factors among women support that their adoption of particular healthy behaviors is more dependent on material and symbolic conditions. To fully address the issue of health inequalities, interventions within the health systems should be complemented with population-based policies specifically designed to reduce socioeconomic gradients.

PMID:
22666343
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3362583
Free PMC Article
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