Low socio-economic status can increase the chances of getting a second heart attack or stroke, according to new research.
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The study, published in the journal European Society of Cardiology, found that the risk of a second attack was 36 per cent lower for those in the highest income quintile than those with the lowest.
The chances increase by 14 per cent among divorced patients than among married.
“Rich or poor, married or divorced might affect your risk of a second heart attack or stroke. Advances in prevention and acute treatment have increased survival chances after heart attack and stroke over the past several decades,” said Joel Ohm, physician at the Karolinska University Hospital, Sweden.
The study investigated the link between socioeconomic status in patients who had survived their first heart attack and have the risk of a second attack or stroke.
The study included 29,953 patients who had been discharged approximately one year previously from cardiac intensive care unit after treatment for a first myocardial infarction.
During an average follow up of four years, 2,405 patients (8 per cent) suffered a heart attack or stroke. After factoring age, gender, smoking preference, and the defined measures of socioeconomic status, the study found that divorce was associated with a 14 per cent greater risk of a second attack than the marriage.
There is an independent and linear relationship between income and the risk of a second event. Those with highest quintile of income had 36 per cent lower risk of suffering from heart attack for the second time than those in the lowest quintile.
A higher level of education was associated with a lower risk of events but the association was not significant after adjustment for income.
“Our study shows that in the years following a first myocardial infarction, men and women with low socioeconomic status have a higher risk of suffering another heart attack or stroke. This is a new finding and suggests that socioeconomic status should be included in risk assessment for secondary prevention after a heart attack,” Ohm added.
Even though health care providers are unlikely to keep track of their patients' yearly salary, simple questions about other socioeconomic variables such as marital status and educational level could make a difference, the study suggested.