Ignorance is no bliss

Coronary heart disease is more prevalent among the poorly educated rural Indians than the well-educated

Published: Wednesday 15 February 1995

-- UNEDUCATED and less educated people in rural India suffer more from coronary heart disease than their better educated counterparts, a study by a team of doctors from Jaipur reveals. The scientists from Monilek Hospital and Research Centre and the University of Rajasthan also found that factors that increase the risk of heart disease like smoking and high blood pressure, were also more prevalent among the poorly educated (British Medical Journal, Vol 309, No 6965).

Led by Rajeev Gupta, the Jaipur scientists examined the educational level and the occurrence of heart disease and the factors that increase the risk of developing this disease in 3,148 people from rural Rajasthan. The study revealed that the total prevalence of heart disease was higher among women than men. The scientists found an overall decrease in the prevalence of heart disease with increasing educational status in both men and women. Smoking was common among the men, especially the illiterate ones.

Unlike previous studies carried out in India, which showed that people engaged in heavy work such as farm labour had a lower prevalence of heart disease, than people with sedentary habits, the Rajasthan study revealed that though the poorly educated were physically more active, they still were more prone to heart disease.

From this Gupta and his colleagues conclude that the level of a person's education is far more important than the lifestyle -- physically active or sedentary -- that he or she follows. They point out that "though increased physical activity protects against coronary heart disease, a poor diet lacking in fruit and vegetables may be detrimental."

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