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Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Jun;129(6):1132-44.

Educational attainment and behavioral and biologic risk factors for coronary heart disease in middle-aged women.

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Department of Epidemiology, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213.


Epidemiologic investigations have shown that low socioeconomic status is related to ischemic coronary heart disease mortality in men and women as well as to major risk factors for coronary heart disease, predominantly in men. The present study investigated the associations between educational attainment and biologic and behavioral risk factors for coronary heart disease in a community sample of 2,138 middle-aged women residing in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The women were contacted between 1983 and 1985 to determine eligibility for a study of risk factor changes during the perimenopausal period. Eligibility criteria included age 42 to 50 years, premenopausal status, diastolic blood pressure less than 100 mmHg, and nonuse of medications known to influence risk factors. Among the 541 eligible participants, the less education the women reported, the more atherogenic was their risk factor profile, including higher systolic blood pressure, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, apolipoprotein B, triglycerides, fasting and two-hour glucose values, two-hour insulin values, body mass indices, and lower high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and HDL/LDL ratio; the more often they reported being cigarette smokers, taking little physical exercise, and consuming alcohol less than one day a week; the more often they reported on standardized psychologic tests being Type B, angry, pessimistic, depressed, and dissatisfied with paid work, and having little social support and self-esteem (all p values less than 0.01). Similar associations were obtained between educational attainment and risk factors reported by the 1,588 nonparticipants during the telephone screening interview. These results suggest many biologic and behavioral factors by which women with little education are at elevated risk for coronary heart disease. To the extent that advanced education protects women against coronary heart disease, a potentially important public health intervention for women is education.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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