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A drop in income could impact heart health, study suggests

How your paycheck may impact heart health

A new study finds people who suffered a substantial loss in income are also more likely to suffer from heart trouble. Over the course of nearly two decades, researchers looked at nearly 9,000 people from four parts of the country. 

The study, published in JAMA Cardiology, found patients whose income dropped by 50% or more were 17% more likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event like stroke or heart attack. But for people whose income went up by 50%, those patients were 14% less likely to have a cardiovascular event. 

Cardiologist and CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula said there could be a number of factors that would contribute to this outcome.

"We think that maybe some of the drop in income causes people to maybe choose less healthy foods. The stress may cause them to choose less healthy social behaviors like smoking or drinking. They may become depressed. We know that depression is linked with coronary artery disease," Narula said.

She said 80% of cardiovascular disease is preventable, especially through lifestyle factors like a healthy diet, getting enough exercise and monitoring your cholesterol and blood pressure. 

But there could be other factors at play in the study's findings. For example, if someone gets sick, they may not be able to work anymore. Or, it's possible they lost a spouse who was the primary breadwinner.

Since the study found a connection between income and cardiovascular health, Narula said doctors need to take income into consideration when treating their patients.

"We have to do a better job screening for this as part of our intake with patients and really assessing what is somebody's socioeconomic background and how might that be playing into the decisions that they're making," Narula said. "Because if we can understand that then we can better approach them in terms of how we're going to care for them."

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