"If you are born into a rich family, it doesn't matter whether you have a high income," he said. "You have a lower risk of stroke."
The study divided the participants into six groups, based on their wealth. They zeroed in on those in the fifth highest group, leaving out the rich and ultra rich. The people in that group, formally those in the 75th to 89th percentile, had one-third the risk of a stroke between 50 and 64 of the 10 percent with the lowest wealth.
Not surprisingly, the study found that lower income, wealth and education was associated with a higher incidence of smoking, low physical activity, diabetes and high blood pressure, all major risk factors for stroke.
Education didn't matter much in terms of stroke risk, either before or after age 65.
The public health application of the finding is that giving more money to poor people could reduce their risk of early stroke, Avendano said. But, as he noted in a statement, "diminishing wealth inequality requires transforming structural policies beyond the health-care system that aim to redistribute income and wealth to benefit the most disadvantaged members of society."
The report "didn't surprise me much, but just a little bit," said Dr. Claudette Brooks, an assistant professor of neurology at West Virginia University.
"We know that the risk of stroke increases after age 65, but there are other factors at work," she said.
Risk factors for stroke other than lack of money are described by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Mauricio Avendano, Ph.D., research fellow, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; Claudette Brooks, M.D., assistant professor, ne
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