Poorest People at Highest Heart Disease Risk: U.S. Data

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) — Socioeconomic status plays a more important role than race or ethnicity in cardiovascular disease risk disparities in the United States, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed data from 12,154 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2001-2006) and found that the poorest people have the highest risk of cardiovascular disease, but there are few differences in risk between racial and ethnic groups.

The study included whites, blacks, U.S.-born Mexican Americans and foreign-born Mexican Americans. The lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the greater their risk for cardiovascular disease — in all racial and ethnic groups, the investigators found.

The finding could result from lifestyle differences. For example, poor people tend to exercise less and are more likely to be obese and to smoke, the study authors noted.

“Most ethnic differences in cardiovascular risk are really due to socioeconomic differences between the races in the U.S. — except for one outstanding exception. Foreign-born Mexican Americans, as opposed to Mexican Americans born here, are healthier than everyone else, and this may have less to do with ethnicity or genes than with migration patterns,” lead researcher Dr. Arun Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics at David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, said in a UCLA news release.

“Only the healthy are able to migrate here, and the unhealthy go back for their care,” he explained.

The study is published in the August issue of the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

“Socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals need to be specifically targeted for early risk detection and management, and health behavior counseling if we are to improve the cardiovascular health of the nation,” the researchers concluded.

More information

The American Heart Association explains how to prevent heart disease, stroke and heart attack.