The Outlook for Heart Patients

Suggested lead: A new study shows the higher your income and education, the better your chances for surviving heart surgery. Tom Britt has more.

Studies at Duke University Medical Center show patients with low income and little education are less likely to survive major heart procedures, and those who do survive have a poorer quality of life. Duke cardiologist Dr. Chen Tung says the difference at first appeared to be due to these patients' simply being less healthy to begin with.

"They tend to be older, more of them tend to be female and they also tend to be a sicker population. However, even after we adjusted for these differences we still saw a difference in terms of both survival and quality of life."

Tung says the difference appears to be that the more education and income you have, the more likely you are to follow the treatment plan, take your medication, eat a proper diet and get more exercise. He says ways must be found to convince heart patients that they can make a difference by making small changes in their lifestyles. I'm Tom Britt.

Tung says medical professionals must find ways to identify lower income, less educated heart patients for special attention.

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"Alternatives such as education or a disease management program where we target them for programs such as focusing on compliance, focusing on exercise, diet, that bring them a greater awareness of the importance of these issues."