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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 02:24 GMT 03:24 UK
Poverty 'raises heart patients' risk'
Heart surgeons
Poorer patients were younger and had a higher number of risk factors
Poverty and social deprivation increase the risk of complications and death among patients who undergo heart bypasses, research suggests.

Researchers looked at the recovery of 3,578 patients who received coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) at the Bristol Royal Infirmary between 1996 and 2000.

They found patients from deprived areas tended to be younger and had a higher number of risk factors.

These patients were more likely to die within 30 days of surgery.

They had a higher rates of heart attack and stroke.

And they tended to stay in hospital longer.

The researchers from the Bristol Heart Institute, at the University of Bristol, considered risk factors such as excessive weight, smoking and diabetes and complications during surgery that could inhibit recovery.

They weighed up risk against the patient's deprivation score - gleaned from their postcode, using a system called the Carstairs index.

Stress levels

Nearly half of the hospital's referrals come from south-west Britain, a large area that covers a range of socio-economic conditions.

The research, published in the journal Heart, links poverty with greater stress and social isolation, and less access to swift preventative treatment.

The writers emphasise action targeted specifically to improve healthcare for those from more deprived areas must be combined with a political commitment to reduce the wealth gap.

"It has been argued that targeting aspects of poor health among society's poorer groups may also address the associations found between socio-economic deprivation and poor health," they state in the Heart article.

"However, this depends on a political commitment to reducing socio-economic inequalities and on using a complex combination of strategies often involving a multidisciplinary approach."

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