Fluctuating personal income may be associated with an increased heart disease risk

Sudden, unpredictable drops in personal income during young adulthood are associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease and/or dying from any cause, according to new research in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Elfassy noted the largest income shifts were associated with almost double the risk of death and more than double the risk for heart disease.

Patients with an unstable income "may subsequently be a high priority group for cardiovascular disease screening and interventions in a clinical setting", the researchers emphasized.

Fluctuating incomes are on the rise in the US, where one-third of Americans weather large swings in income, according to research from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

As far as possible remedies go, Elfassy suggested policies and programs to help individuals who experience traumatic financial events. The researchers assessed income volatility based on large swings in income. The research also found high income volatility and income drops were experienced more by women and African-Americans than white men.

The study used data from the ongoing Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study that is following 3,937 people living in four diverse U.S. cities (Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Oakland, California). Of the participants, 47.6% were black and 56.2% were female.

It is following 3,937 people living in Birmingham, Alabama; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; and Oakland, California.

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Participants were examined at baseline, with periodic follow-ups thereafter.

"My hunch is that I don't think there is going to be just one particular biological or behavioral mechanism that will account for the entire association, but perhaps a number of them altogether will account for it", she said.

Not only was the data observational, but the income assessment was also a limitation, noted Elfassy. "Income volatility is very common, and it's something that needs to be considered in terms of cardiovascular disease risk since we are finding it is an independent contributor", Elfassy said.

The study was not able to determine the cause of the association between income volatility and health because it was observational and not created to prove cause and effect.

"Given the current economic environment of increasing income instability, understanding how volatility is associated with health has become increasingly important".

This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Aging.

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