If You're Over 50, This One Thing Can Predict Your Heart Disease Risk

A study found a correlation between a decrease in this and an increase in health issues.

Watching what you eat and how much you exercise are two of the easiest ways to quickly assess your risk of heart disease, especially as you age. Your body also can give you other warning signs that something's wrong or headed in that direction. But according to a new study, there's one thing completely unrelated to your immediate health that people over 50 can use to predict their risk of heart disease that doesn't involve a blood test or scale. Read on to see what could signal you've got health problems in store.

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Losing wealth during midlife increases your risk of heart disease.

Older man calculating money

A new study published in JAMA Cardiology set out to investigate the link between monetary health and heart health in the U.S. By acknowledging previous studies that have found socioeconomic factors can have a direct influence on cardiovascular health, the research team instead focused on changes in wealth and how they could potentially affect the heart.

After examining a group of 5,550 adults who had never been diagnosed with any cardiovascular disease, results showed that adults faced with "downward wealth mobility" relative to their peers were at increased risk of a heart health issue after turning 65. In the case of this study, this included heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke, and heart-related death.

Results also found that gaining wealth decreased the risk of heart disease.

Middle aged couple financial planning

But there wasn't just a correlation between losing wealth and heart health. Researchers found that those who experienced "upward wealth mobility" were less likely to develop cardiovascular issues after 65 than their peers. In the case of this study, the authors defined mobility as "relative increases in the total value of assets excluding primary residence."

"This suggests that upward wealth mobility may offset some of the risk associated with past economic hardship," Andrew Sumarsono, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and the study's author, said in a university release. He also added that the correlation between decreased wealth and heart health risk meant that downward wealth mobility was "potentially offsetting some of the benefit associated with prior economic thriving."

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Those in the bottom wealth brackets still saw less improvement in heart health despite becoming richer.

man relaxing on the coach by himself

Ultimately, the researchers estimated that every $100,000 gained or lost by an individual could create a 1 percent swing in cardiovascular health risk. But data also showed that there was a notable difference: those who started in the top 20 percentile of wealth brackets and lost money showed the same heart health risk as those who started out rich and stayed wealthy. But those starting in the bottom 20 percent who gained wealth showed a lower cardiovascular risk than people who remained in the poorer bracket.

The researchers say this may point towards a "legacy protection" that exists among wealthy populations but not in the poorest. They also reported that their results regarding changes in wealth and heart health later in life were found to be the same across all ethnicities and races in the study.

The study's author concluded that policies should be developed to help build wealth resilience.

couple meeting with finance officer Bad Dating Marriage Tips

Pointing out that there is a 15-year gap in life expectancy between the wealthiest one percent and the poorest one percent in the U.S., the researchers concluded that losing or gaining wealth could be just as important to heart health as where someone starts off. "We already know that wealth relates to health, but we show that wealth trajectories also matter," Sumarsono said. "This means that the cardiovascular risk associated with wealth is not permanent and can be influenced."

"We live in a system where people can experience catastrophic losses in wealth from situations beyond their control and that opportunities to accrue wealth are not equally available across racial or socioeconomic groups," Sumarsono added. "Policies that build resilience against large wealth losses and that address these opportunity gaps should be prioritized and may be considered a public health measure to improve overall health while also potentially narrowing racial, socioeconomic, and cardiovascular health disparities."

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Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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