Study finds biological link between socioeconomic status, cardiovascular risk
A new study published in the July issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggests a stress-associated neurobiological pathway might link lower socioeconomic status to a higher risk of major adverse cardiac events (MACE).
The study follows up on findings from a 2017 study by the same authors that linked activity from the amygdala, a stress-responsive brain structure, to an elevated risk of heart attacks or strokes. The newer study followed 289 participants from the 2017 study and showed that participants from lower-income neighborhoods had increased resting amygdalar activity, elevated immune cell production, and arterial inflammation. Those results indicated that participants from lower income neighborhoods are at a significantly increased risk of experiencing MACE.
“These results provide further support for considering socioeconomic status when assessing an individual’s risk for cardiovascular disease and suggest new approaches to helping reduce cardiovascular risk among those patients,” said Ahmed Tawakol, MD, director of Nuclear Cardiology at MGH and lead author of the study, in a press release.
While socioeconomic factors are often difficult to modify, Tawakol said in the press release that the identification of a biological pathway such as the one found in this study could help providers develop early intervention treatments to address the physical systems involved in the higher risk population.
“The multiple nodes of the biological pathway that we have defined—brain stress centers, immune cell production and arterial inflammation—could each be targeted by lifestyle approaches such as sufficient sleep, exercise and meditation; statins to reduce arterial inflammation; and novel treatments targeting this path,” Tawakol said.