February 10, 2010

Heart disease and IQ

From Reuters:
Low intelligence among top heart health risks

LONDON (Reuters) - Intelligence comes second only to smoking as a predictor of heart disease, scientists said on Wednesday, suggesting public health campaigns may need to be designed for people with lower IQs if they are to work.

This works both ways: sickly people tend to less smart in the first place (maybe some have lower IQs because their heart and circulatory system don't deliver enough blood to the brain?), and being sick and/or old cuts your IQ. So, it is the duty of smart people in the medical industry to think hard about to make everything simpler for patients. Instead, a lot of practices in medicine (like those pages of tiny type in magazine ads for prescription drugs listing side effects) are done to appease smart lawyers rather than to make life better for baffled patients.

Similarly, as the recent cases of patients being fried by overly large doses of radiation therapy and scanners show, programmers need to build in safety measures to keep low IQ and/or sleep deprived medical personnel from messing up.

Research by Britain's Medical Research Council (MRC) found that lower intelligence quotient (IQ) scores were associated with higher rates of heart disease and death, and were more important indicators than any other risk factors except smoking.

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women Europe, the United States and most industrialised countries.

According to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes accounted for 32 percent of all deaths around the world in 2005.

It is well known that people with poorer education and lower incomes often face higher risks of ill health and a range of diseases. Studies have pointed to many likely reasons, including limited access to healthcare and other resources, poorer living conditions, chronic stress and higher rates of lifestyle risk factors like smoking.

The MRC study, which analysed data from 1,145 men and women aged around 55 and followed up for 20 years, rated the top five heart disease risk factors as cigarette smoking, IQ, low income, high blood pressure, and low physical activity.

The researchers, led by David Batty of the MRC and Social and Public Health Science Unit in Glasgow, Scotland, said there were "a number of plausible mechanisms" which might explain why lower IQ scores could raise the risk of heart disease -- in particular a person's approach to "healthy behaviour."

Judging by the number of people I see jogging in the most expensive parts of town, versus the few joggers in the rest of town, I often wonder whether "energy" -- both physical and mental -- has a sizable general factor.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nah, it is culture and fashon. In rich neighborhoods jogging, exercise, eating healthy, and recycling are socially approved. In poor neighborhoods thats all GAY. Remember in Idiocracy, speaking rationally using logic and appealing to reason is considered GAY and invites a fist in the face.

Whiskey said...

Jogging requires safety Steve. Crime and expectation of crime forms a huge part of behavior. Would you jog through South Central LA?

ricpic said...

How about the radical concept of letting people, even those benighted low IQ'ers live...and die as they see fit?

albertosaurus said...

Thank you. I asked you for an article on this issue at about 8:00AM this morning and you delivered. I guess I'll have to send you some money now.

However isn't this just an obvious case of third factor correlation?

Blacks have low IQs. Blacks have bad hearts.

For me to be impressed they would have to control for race.

Anonymous said...

This works both ways: sickly people tend to less smart in the first place

When they are young, smarter people are often sickly - colds/flu and especially allergies.
They have to wait until after 30 to be healthier than average.

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Not a bit surprising if you've read much Fogel.

Aristos were better in the 18th century - they were taller, smarter, and had better teeth (well, sugar aside, so maybe we need to go back to the 15th C) than the peasants. They weren't remarkably genetically different, but they had MUCH better life-long nutrition.

l said...

Michelle Obama's gonna fix this.

Henry Canaday said...

Of course, you might get the opposite result if you studied very poor countries, where the smartest people tend to become well off and the first thing well-off people do is eat themselves into heart attacks.

That was also true of very civilized countries not so very long ago. In “Buddenbrooks,” Thomas Mann has a grotesquely hilarious scene of a newly rich German businessman of the 19th Century stuffing himself with cake until he gets a heart attack, then continuing to stuff himself with more cake as he gradually loses consciousness.

dWj said...

It's my understanding that there's a very strong association between intelligence and the ability to defer gratification, and that should have large effects in terms of diet and exercise. I also expect that, by and large, intelligent people know more than unintelligent people about how to care for themselves, and perhaps how to seek care from others. If you try to adjust for certain measurable manifestations of diet and exercise, I imagine you would mute some of this effect, but a lot of the unmeasured related variables would still go the same way.

Glossy said...

"I often wonder whether "energy" -- both physical and mental -- has a sizable general factor..."

And yet most professional athletes remain idiots. I saw some of the interminable pre-superbowl coverage on TV and it included interviews with players. It was almost like watching horses being interviewed before a race. In many cases the amount of information exchanged would have been the same if they were horses.

Yes, I know there are exceptions and lots of variation between positions and between sports, but the average level seems low.

Intelligence correlates positively with conscientiousness. Today everyone is told to exercise, so smart folks (the teacher's pet demographic) exercise a lot. They're more able to force themselves to do what they think is good for them than dumb folks are. 50 years ago the culture didn't lecture people about exercise as much and dumb folks were more likely to do strenuous physical work than they are now. I bet 50 years ago muscle mass and physical conditioning correlated negatively with intelligence. Traditionally the rich (i.e. the smart) were fatter than the poor. This is still true in places like India.

Exercising for health is a comparatively new trend.

Nanonymous said...

Obviously there are many factors but I think one is predominant today: poor nutrition.

Smarter --> earn more --> eat more expensive food. These days, cheap food is a lot less healthy.

Anonymous said...

I get the feeling that there is something really weird going on with third-world [black & hispanic] physiologies.

As you watch them age, you definitely get that feeling of the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

Particularly with the great athletes.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder whether "energy" -- both physical and mental -- has a sizable general factor

What does that mean - that "energy" [to the extent that it can be measured] correlates well with IQ?

It would certainly be the case that high-IQ people are more easily able to foresee the fruits of their "energy" when that "energy" is applied towards productive ends.

And, conversely, you have to wonder about the extent to which low-IQ people have sufficiently rich fantasy lives to be able to imagine alternating [or alterable] versions of the future [which alterations depend upon the applications of their "energy" in the here and now].

On the other hand, maybe the brain chemistries which result in high-IQ also tend to result in high "energy".

Anonymous said...

Although I can't quantify it, I would guess that wealthier people are more obsessed with cardio workouts. There's definitely a bourgeois culture of exercise, yoga, and health food -- in short, Whole Foods Nation.

I want to know if getting your blood moving, reducing stress and bringing oxygen into brain, and eating blueberry smoothies increases your intelligence. It sure seems a safer bet than eating junk food, watching television, and smoking cigarettes and/or pot.

Reactionary said...

Smarter --> earn more --> eat more expensive food. These days, cheap food is a lot less healthy.

Bullshit. I was poor a couple of years ago, and did just fine buying brown rice, chicken and frozen vegetables. You don't have to go to Whole Foods to eat well, stupid yupster.

Dennis Mangan said...

IQ and health correlate for the same reason: you're born with both high IQ and good health or the opposite. A study that Gottfredson co-authored found that IQ correlated with sperm counts. Link.

"We found significant positive correlations between intelligence and 3 key indices of semen quality: log sperm concentration (r=.15, p=.002), log sperm count (r=.19, pb.001), and sperm motility (r=.14, p=.002) in a large sample of US Army Veterans. None was mediated by age, body mass index, days of sexual abstinence, service in Vietnam, or use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or hard drugs. These results suggest that a phenotype-wide fitness factor may contribute to the association between intelligence and health."

agnostic said...

"a newly rich German businessman of the 19th Century stuffing himself with cake until he gets a heart attack"

Also, rich Westerners used to get gout more than poor people. Uric acid builds up because of too much fructose, and it's not because they were eating 20 apples a day. Rather, the then-luxury of sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose.

These days, smarter people probably eat less than the poor do of the most harmful carbs like sugar and starch. So they're going to have less of the small dense LDL particles than the poor, and the insides of their bodies won't be as destroyed by glycation and fructation as the poor's will be.

Dummies also have more of taste for sweets and starch to begin with. Just look at what they pile into their shopping carts in the grocery store: chips / crackers, cookies, sugary cereal, ice cream, candy, soda, pasta / noodle bowls, frozen pizza, etc. They're de facto vegetarians of the worst kind.

If you thought the vegans in Whole Foods looked fatigued and decomposing, you don't get out enough. The prole slugs from the left half of the bell curve look even more disgusting.

Nanonymous said...

@Reactionary:

Bullshit. I was poor a couple of years ago, and did just fine buying brown rice, chicken and frozen vegetables. You don't have to go to Whole Foods to eat well, stupid yupster.

1. Do you even comprehend an idea of "on average"? "Couple of years" and N=1 - yes, that's a solid argument.

2. We don't know but it is entirely possible that you consumed a lot of filth with that cheap chicken. And it is possible that the rice and vegetables were full of pesticides (and it is possible that the pesticides may affect the heart).

3. I don't shop at Whole Foods at all. In most cases the benefits of "organic" are too uncertain to take them seriously.

Anonymous said...

"Would you jog through South Central LA?"

No, I would sprint.

Galtonian said...

Interestingly there is a phenomenon called the "Hispanic Paradox" where Hispanics have lower social class and lower IQ yet they seem to have better health than Whites (or at least equal to Whites). So this is an exception where IQ does not seem to predict health.

There is a study posted on Nature Precedings where the IQ of each ethnoracial group in every school district in California was assessed by measuring their performance on state-administered math tests. Then the local IQs were correlated with social class and with health (as measured by mortality due to various diseases and also to non-disease causes such as homicide and suicide).

The pdf is available here
http://precedings.nature.com/documents/2862/version/1

Felix M said...

picking up Anon's question on whether stress reduction (and other stuff) increases your intelligence

many low IQ people can find it extremely stressful trying to cope with modern life, brushes with the law, repossession of property etc

this might well contribute to heart problems

Anonymous said...

As noted by several commentators, the social class (and presumably IQ)-health gradient is reversed in many developing countries, such as India, which suggests that explanations based on intelligence as a sign of health (except in extreme cases) are bogus.

David said...

>How about the radical concept of letting people, even those benighted low IQ'ers live...and die as they see fit?<

No. We must rebuild Haiti. With skyscrapers. Whether they like it or not! Else what happens to our moral stature?

Remember, it's not about people. It's about racking up enough points to earn a ticket to Heaven.

David said...

What about Steve's old point that smarter people better understand and remember medical advice...while dumber people dismiss such abstractions?

Someone's point about imagination is interesting, too. A smart person envisions and worries about the future and feels competent (and therefore energized) to prepare for it. A dumb person either can't imagine the future very clearly and thus doesn't worry much, or worries now and then but feels helpless.

nooffensebut said...

FYI:

The sample consisted of the 1551-person, 55-year-old cohort of the West of Scotland Twenty-07 study. After looking at multiple studies based on this cohort, I am led to Medical Research Council Medical Sociology Unit, Working Paper No. 6, 1987 for the full description. I have not been able to locate a copy of this paper. However, even though the study does not control for race, this population comes from Glasgow, Scotland. This city is 94.5% white. The 5.5% minority population is half Pakistani and 6% black/African/Caribbean. Older people in Glasgow are more likely to be white. Therefore, this was probably overwhelmingly a study of white subjects.

Anonymous said...

Agnostic:
Dummies also have more of taste for sweets and starch to begin with. Just look at what they pile into their shopping carts in the grocery store: chips / crackers, cookies, sugary cereal, ice cream, candy, soda, pasta / noodle bowls, frozen pizza, etc.

Dummies?

That sounds more like the typical Silicon Valley or Ivy League grad student diet.

Anonymous said...

As noted by several commentators, the social class (and presumably IQ)-health gradient is reversed in many developing countries, such as India, which suggests that explanations based on intelligence as a sign of health (except in extreme cases) are bogus.

In the modern west, granola and tofu are status symbols. In India (or 19th century Germany), pork and pie are/were status symbols.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add that urbanization may explain why nutrition, status, and IQ differ so much between First, Second, and Third World.

Urbanization -> cheap processed food

In traditional rural societies, the elites ate more processed food. In modern urbanities, it's the poor that eat the most processed foods. The rich have the luxury, in both time and money, to process their own food, or eat raw carrots.

Deckin said...

I must admit, I'm rather surprised that other commenters (including noffensebut) don't go for the manifestly obvious causal path: Brains use a lot of energy (20% of total body oxygen consumption, and 25% of total body glucose utilization), hence people with larger, more adept, and higher functioning brains will, all else being equal, burn more calories than people with less well functioning brains. Few people modulate their diets for their brains (consciously) and hence the dumber will overeat their intelligence and store the unused energy as heart hurting fat. I know that after a lecture or talk on a difficult topic, the spent feeling in the head is difficult to describe to those who've never experienced it.

Steve Sailer said...

The brain burning calories is an interesting idea -- there's a moderate correlation between brain size and IQ. On the other hand, there's also evidence that higher IQ people's brains tend to work more efficiently, with less calories burned for the same amount of work.

Anonymous said...

Re energy:

Richer, smarter, whiter people are better adapted to the industrial urban "social safety net" world. They seem to have more energy, that is, higher physical and mental activity - and less efficient metabolisms. They end up being the yuppies and SWPLs.

This is related to the "thrifty gene" in hunter-gatherer peoples. They can't afford to have too much available energy, and need to store some of it away for the next famine. Thus, hunter-gatherers suffer in industrial and even agricultural societies - for being fat, slow, dumb, lazy, intemperate, and the like.

Even traditional farming peoples needed to have somewhat thrifty genes. Famine can strike at any times, and stored foodtuffs can run out.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

Bullshit. I was poor a couple of years ago, and did just fine buying brown rice, chicken and frozen vegetables. You don't have to go to Whole Foods to eat well, stupid yupster.

I didn't watch all of this Larry King w/ Michelle Obama and, later, Bill Cosby on the question of black obesity, but I caught this segment:

KING: Bill, do kids in lower income neighborhoods have access to healthy, fresh foods?

COSBY: I don't know. I know there used to be a Fed-Co, that was deliberately put in the lower economic neighborhoods to serve the people. Maybe not. I don't know.

POUSSAINT: No, they don't have many -- much fresh food in low economic neighborhoods at all. That's one of the problems. And so people are trying to push fresh food markets in those neighborhoods, as well as more supermarkets and grocery stores that sell produce, because many of those neighborhoods don't have supermarkets, not to mention farm markets.

And the two things I wanted to scream out were a)can't they get their fat asses in a car and drive to a supermarket? and b) they have created a market (including the high crime and their particular consumption habits) where there is no economic incentive for someone to open a supermarket.

Deckin said...

I thought about the efficient brain hypothesis, but I wonder whether this mightn't also be a case of choosing one's challenges to suit one's capacities. Those who are regularly stymied in what, for them, are cognitively demanding tasks will, like anyone, eschew them. But those with more efficient brains will, on occasion, succeed on those tasks and experience enough satisfactory rush to spur them on to yet more energy consuming ones. An idea, at least.

RobertHume said...

High IQ leads to success in life ... in our society. There was a study of UK bureaucrats, all under identical NHS coverage and not too unequal salaries. The ones with higher rank lived as much as 10 years longer than those with lower status.

So IQ may be very correlated with status... which is the true determinant of health.

RobertHume said...

"And yet most professional athletes remain idiots."

When I was in high school in the '50's the concept of "dumb jock" was rampant. But now that blacks are able to show their superiority in sports, that concept is almost taboo.

Anonymous said...

Every person I know who jogs and exercises etc is the type of person who sees the world as a place of possibilities and enjoyment. They can't wait to live their lives.

Now I am not sure if this has to do with IQ or whatever. Maybe the smarter you are the more you see of the world and all it can give you and you can earn from it.

But for a great many people, actually most people on the planet, the world isn't a place to enjoy. The world is a place where you suffer and figure a way to have a few moments of joy, but for the most part, life is no fun. Why go jogging and voluntarily experience more pain.

I jog to remind myself of the pain that life can be and to put myself through that pain. I learned it in the Marine Corps, you suffer every day. That and women like abs.

David said...

Re energy -

Picturing a realistically successful outcome gives one the energy to pursue it. More intelligent people have better more accurate imaginations (because they have more data and it's better organized); imagination makes the difference between seeing success or not. Imagination can be artificially stimulated by tutors and mentors and "mental coaches" but this is second-hand imagination.