THURSDAY, Aug. 14, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Among smokers, those with the least education are at the greatest risk for stroke, Danish researchers report.
"The combined effect of low educational level and smoking on the risk of stroke is the most surprising finding of our paper," said study author Helene Nordahl, an epidemiologist in the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen.
She added that reducing smoking among those with the least education could potentially reduce strokes more than targeting smoking in those with the most schooling.
Although the study included Danish participants, Nordahl believes her findings are applicable to other countries.
"Since the most disadvantaged groups are often exposed to a wide number of stroke risk factors, it seems plausible that these people are at increased risk of stroke, not only in Denmark but also in the U.S.," Nordahl said.
Other factors increase the risk for stroke, she said. "However, in this study we only included two of the main risk factors, smoking and high blood pressure, which were both more frequent in the lowest educated than in the highest educated," Nordahl said.
Previous studies by the same researchers have shown that the most disadvantaged groups are often exposed to a wide number of behavioral risk factors, such as obesity and physical inactivity, she said. "So it seems plausible that these risk factors could influence the risk of stroke in these groups," Nordahl added.
The report was published online Aug. 14 in the journal Stroke.
Dr. Ralph Sacco, chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, "This very large study from Denmark shows an increased risk of stroke among smokers with low educat
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