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Heart disease risk link to lower IQ

15th July 2009

Researchers from the UK have warned that having a lower than average IQ is a risk factor for heart disease.

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In the light of their findings, they suggest that public health messages over issues such as diet and exercise should be made simpler.

Writing in the European Heart Journal, their research for the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council revealed that IQ alone explained more than 20% of the difference in mortality between high and low socioeconomic groups even when known heart disease risk factors were considered.

Study leader Dr David Batty said: "We already know that socio-economically disadvantaged people have worse health and tend to die earlier from conditions such as heart disease, cancer and accidents.

"Environmental exposures and health-related behaviours, such as smoking, diet and physical activity, can explain some of this difference, but not all of it."

A team from University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh studied 4,289 former US soldiers from all walks of life, which showed that those on low incomes and with less education had a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

But when the researchers took into account IQ and controlled for nine other known heart disease risk factors, IQ alone explained 23% of the differences in mortality between those in the highest and lowest socioeconomic groups in the study.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said health campaigns designed to reach everyone in a community were crucial to making real progress on tackling health inequalities.

 

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