Changes to wealth may impact consumers' cardiovascular health, study finds

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Experts say gaining or losing money can lead to actual physical changes in our bodies

A new study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital discovered an interesting trend between consumers’ wealth and cardiovascular health

According to their findings, the two can have a direct impact on each other. Gaining wealth was associated with better cardiovascular health, while losing wealth was linked with poorer cardiovascular health. 

“Low wealth is a risk factor that can dynamically change over a person’s life and can influence a person’s cardiovascular health status,” said researcher Dr. Muthiah Vaduganathan. “So, it’s a window of opportunity we have for an at-risk population. Buffering large changes in wealth should be an important focus for health policy moving forward.” 

Wealth and health are closely tied

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 5,500 adults over the age of 50 who were enrolled in the RAND Health and Retirement Study (RHS). The dataset included information on all of the participants’ personal wealth assets, including everything from homes and stocks to cars and savings. The team also interviewed the participants to get an idea of their medical histories. 

Ultimately, the researchers learned that gaining more wealth was linked with improvements to heart health. The opposite was also true -- downward wealth mobility led to poorer heart health outcomes. 

“Decreases in wealth are associated with more stress, fewer healthy behaviors, and less leisure time, all of which are associated with poorer cardiovascular health,” said researcher Dr. Andrew Sumarsono. “It is possible that the inverse is true and may help to explain our study’s findings.” 

In this study, the team wanted to be clear about the difference between wealth and income. According to researcher Sara Machado, income refers to “money received on a regular basis,” while wealth is “more holistic, encompassing both assets and debts.” When thinking about how wealth impacts heart health, knowing the difference between the two is important. 

“Wealth and health are so closely integrated that we can no longer consider them apart,” said Dr. Vaduganathan. “In future investigations, we need to make dedicated efforts to routinely measure wealth and consider it a key determinant of cardiovascular health.”

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