Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the role of body mass index (BMI), systolic blood pressure, and smoking behaviour in explaining the effect of education on the risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes. DESIGN: Mendelian randomisation study. SETTING: UK Biobank and international genome-wide association study data. PARTICIPANTS: Predominantly participants of European ancestry. EXPOSURE: Educational attainment, BMI, systolic blood pressure, and smoking behaviour in observational analysis, and randomly allocated genetic variants to instrument these traits in mendelian randomisation. MAIN OUTCOMES MEASURE: The risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, myocardial infarction, and cardiovascular disease (all subtypes; all measured in odds ratio), and the degree to which this is mediated through BMI, systolic blood pressure, and smoking behaviour respectively. RESULTS: Each additional standard deviation of education (3.6 years) was associated with a 13% lower risk of coronary heart disease (odds ratio 0.86, 95% confidence interval 0.84 to 0.89) in observational analysis and a 37% lower risk (0.63, 0.60 to 0.67) in mendelian randomisation analysis. As a proportion of the total risk reduction, BMI was estimated to mediate 15% (95% confidence interval 13% to 17%) and 18% (14% to 23%) in the observational and mendelian randomisation estimates, respectively. Corresponding estimates were 11% (9% to 13%) and 21% (15% to 27%) for systolic blood pressure and 19% (15% to 22%) and 34% (17% to 50%) for smoking behaviour. All three risk factors combined were estimated to mediate 42% (36% to 48%) and 36% (5% to 68%) of the effect of education on coronary heart disease in observational and mendelian randomisation analyses, respectively. Similar results were obtained when investigating the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, and cardiovascular disease. CONCLUSIONS: BMI, systolic blood pressure, and smoking behaviour mediate a substantial proportion of the protective effect of education on the risk of cardiovascular outcomes and intervening on these would lead to reductions in cases of cardiovascular disease attributable to lower levels of education. However, more than half of the protective effect of education remains unexplained and requires further investigation.

Original publication

DOI

10.1136/bmj.l1855

Type

Journal article

Journal

BMJ

Publication Date

22/05/2019

Volume

365

Keywords

Adult, Aged, Blood Pressure, Body Mass Index, Cardiovascular Diseases, Educational Status, Female, Humans, Male, Mendelian Randomization Analysis, Middle Aged, Multivariate Analysis, Odds Ratio, Risk Factors, Smoking, Socioeconomic Factors, United Kingdom