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Middle-Aged Americans' Cardio Woes Linked to Income Inequality, Harvard Study Reveals

Middle-Aged Americans' Cardio Woes Linked to Income Inequality, Harvard Study RevealsSource: The Harvard Gazette
Sam Cavanaugh
Published on November 28, 2023

The heart of the issue is a stalling beat in the nation's cardiovascular health, with a harrowing uptick in heart disease deaths, especially striking adults in their prime earning years, fighting against the tide of socioeconomic adversity, as insights from the CDC unveil.

In a startling turn of events that challenges the trajectory of medical progress made over the past decades, middle-aged Americans, particularly those pulling in lower incomes, are experiencing a worrying rise in heart-disease-related deaths—a troubling reversal spotlighted by recent research spearheaded by the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, which was shared at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions and made its way to publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine, according to the Harvard Gazette.

With more than twenty thousand adults between 40 and 64 years old under scrutiny, the stats were stark: those on the lower end of the income scale are more likely to wrestle with hypertension, while obesity and diabetes numbers loom large for their upper-income counterparts. The study finds that cardiovascular risk factors have surged within this age bracket, and the disparities bite hard across income levels—results signaling alarm bells for a public health and policy response, as Rishi K. Wadhera, the study's senior author and head honcho of Health Policy and Equity at the Smith Center for Outcomes Research at BIDMC, as emphasized to the Harvard Gazette.

The investigation not only took a hard look at blood pressure, girth, and smoking habits but also at how access to health care or the lack thereof, income, insurance, and even the zip code predicament factor into heart health disparities that starkly delineate along socio-economic lines, dishing out a dire prognosis for those with less loot in their pockets, and Michael Liu, helming the research as lead author, lamented to the Harvard Gazette that even with insurance cards in their wallets and clinics on their corners, low-income Americans' heart health is still lagging behind.

Part of an impressive collaborative cohort, Liu was joined in this cardiac conundrum-solving mission by Rahul Aggarwal, Zhao-Nian Zheng, Robert W. Yeh, and Dhruv S. Kazi of BIDMC, with an assist from Karen E. Joynt Maddox from Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, collectively putting their heads together to call attention to the crux of critical health disparities and the clutch of social determinants that refuse to ease their grip on the pulse of the nation's heart health.

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