Study Looks At Stress & Heart Disease

Shutdown Stress Could Increase Heart Disease Risk

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Stress can affect a person’s mental and physical health in many ways, and as the government shutdown keeps many in financial stress, a new study shows fluctuating personal income may be associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

According to research in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, sudden drops in personal income during adulthood nearly double the risk of death, and more than double the risk for heart disease.

Although the study is observational and not designed to prove cause and effect, cardiologist Dr. Reggie Robinson with MedStar Cardiology Associates says it acknowledges the social determinants of health, rather than focusing on diet and exercise.

“But there are a lot of social factors,” says Robinson, “like this income volatility and poverty, and loss of job (that) can play a huge role on long-term health outcomes, which showed in this study.”

The study began in 1990 tracking nearly 4,000 participants in cities across the country between ages 23 and 35. The research also found women and African Americans are more likely to experience high income volatility and income drops than white men.

Even though the research looked at a younger population, Robinson says the conclusions can easily apply to other age groups – especially considering that as people get older, they develop more risk factors, many of which can be triggered by worrying too much.

“That acid build up in the stomach from all the stress that you may have may lead to potentially increasing your risk of having ulcers and inflammation in the stomach or esophagus,” says Robinson. “It’s something that’s probably under-appreciated, how work-life stress can impact your health.”

While it’s easier said than done, Robinson recommends finding time to exercise or meditate, discuss issues with friends and just take a deep breath from time to time to reduce stress. He recommends trying these natural measures before pursuing any that involve drugs.

-Trimmel Gomes