Does your bank account predict your risk for early stroke?

May 30, 2008 by  

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 Who said that life is always fair? The more you have, the less likely you are to die young. This is because those who have more money are less likely to suffer from stroke at an early age, according to a study by Dutch researchers recently published in the journal Stroke.

The study was part of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study and looked at 20,000 adults in the US. Their results show that the risk of early stroke is much lower among wealthy Americans between 54 and 65 years of age. However, as soon as a person reaches the age of 65, money doesn`t make a difference anymore – stroke risk is the same, rich or poor.

So how can socioeconomic status affect your stroke risk?

People in the lower income group tended to have lesser education. This in turn, is associated with smoking, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition as well as lack of physical exercise, which are major risk factors for stroke. These people also have higher incidence of diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Those with higher income, on the other hand, tend to be more health-conscious and care about their nutrition and engage in more sports and other physical activities.

But why does the rich’s “edge” over those with lower income disappear at retirement age? The researchers explain:

“We tend to think it is more an effect of what we call selective survival. There is a selection of people who reach age 65. People with low incomes are more likely to die, so when you reach age 65, you have a selected group of very healthy people.”

I personally think that another big factor that puts the poor at a disadvantage is the fact that the rich have access to better primary health care by being able to afford private health insurance and better doctors. This is especially a big problem in the US where over 40 million people have no health insurance.

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC)

“…patient visits to physician offices were higher for individuals with private health insurance compared to those with no insurance…In 2006, 14.8 percent of Americans, or 43.6 million, were currently without health insurance.”

And finally, we also shouldn’t forget other risk factors for stroke which have nothing to do with socioeconomic status, and which nobody can really change, regardless of the size of one’s bank account. They are: Age, Gender, Genetics, and Ethnicity


Avendano M, Glymour M. Stroke Disparities in Older Americans: Is Wealth a More Powerful Indicator of Risk Than Income and Education? Stroke. 2008;39:1533.

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