Adults in extreme poverty in LMICs have conditions, can lead to heart disease: Study

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New Delhi: Adults living in extreme poverty in low- and middle-income countries, or LMICs, have health conditions like hypertension and diabetes that can lead to heart disease, according to new research published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.


Researchers examining the relationship between poverty and cardiovascular diseases (CVD) discovered that CVD risk factors were highly prevalent in LMICs regardless of income.

Specifically, the team found that these risk factors - hypertension, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels in the blood) - were present among 17.5 per cent, 4 per cent, 10.6 per cent, 3.1 per cent and 1.4 per cent of adults in extreme poverty, respectively.

Yet, most of these adults were not treated for the CVD-related conditions, they said.


The international study, led by Stanford University in the US, analysed survey data from over 100 nationally representative household surveys across 78 countries. Including data from over 3 million individuals, the researchers estimated it to cover 53 per cent of the global population and 64 per cent of that living in LMICs, including India.

The dataset also represented 85 per cent of individuals living in extreme poverty worldwide, they estimated.

"Our study provides a crucial empirical foundation for future work in improving health outcomes for those living in the poorest sections of global society," said corresponding author Pascal Geldsetzer, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.


The findings contradicted a common assumption that environmental factors like food scarcity and lifestyles involving physical labour of those living in extreme poverty in LMICs protect against CVD risk factors, the team said.

"Understanding how an assumption of the low prevalence of CVD risk factors among those in extreme poverty holds true is important for setting priorities within health policy and care delivery, both for equity and effectiveness," said study author Till Baernighausen, from Heidelberg University, Germany.

Despite being limited by possible measurement errors and potentially overestimating CVD risk in adults living in extreme poverty, the study could inform equity discussions for resource allocation and design of effective interventions, the researchers acknowledged.

"Further research into mechanisms of CVD risk specifically affecting individuals living in extreme poverty is essential - uncovering the different pathways that may predispose various groups to CVD risk will be vital in reducing that risk," said study author Sebastian Vollmer, Professor of Development Economics, University of Göttingen, Germany.