Education Important

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among the developed world with a loss of life happening every 27 seconds. These statistics are especially troubling considering the knowledge that has been gained in recent decades about how to prevent heart attack, stroke and atherosclerosis, as well as the pharmacologic interventions like statins that have becoming increasingly mainstream.

Despite these advances, large numbers of people succumb to severe disability or premature mortality due to heart conditions. The widespread threat of heart disease has led researchers at the Sax Institute to delve deeper into the risk factors associated with cardiac disease like stroke and heart attack to determine what may be cause for some individuals to be more vulnerable than others. What they’ve found is that low education levels correlate with higher incidence of heart attack and stroke.

The Sax Institute’s landmark study, 45 and Up, is one of World’s largest ongoing studies on ageing; compiling longitudinal data on more than 267,000 individuals age 45 to 64. What researchers have concluded from their analysis is that participants who do not have education qualifications had more than double the number of reported heart attacks than those who have earned a college degree.

Among those who achieved intermediate levels of education, the occurrence of stroke was 20% higher than individuals with a university education. Similarly, household income and education level are also related, thus providing evidence for health disparities among those in lower socioeconomic classes.

The state of health inequalities

Health inequalities are cause for concern in many developed countries faces serious challenges related to age, socioeconomics, ethnicity, and geographic location with indigenous communities in remote areas experiencing the sharpest disparities. The burden of heart disease among people living outside of metropolitan areas manifests as significant increases in disability and premature mortality.

To put it into perspective, the life expectancy for males is around 82 years of age and 87 years for women, yet for indigenous males it is about 60 years and 68 years for females.

Why is education so important to your health?

All the medical research and health information in the world cannot make individuals healthier if they don’t understand how to interact with healthcare providers and take appropriate action. Health literacy, defined as one’s capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions, is related to basic literacy and numeracy. Low health literacy affects many facets of health care including one’s ability to fill out necessary health record forms, understand their physician’s directions and explanations, and take medications correctly.

Individuals may also lack basic knowledge about their body and the process of disease. Furthermore, as medicine becomes increasingly complex, technical, and quick to evolve, it is difficult for even those with a solid foundation of health knowledge to keep up. To bridge the health literacy gap, physicians and health administrators are adopting plain language practices to ensure patients at all literacy levels are able to convey their medical history and become active participants in their wellness.