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America’s Heart Health Divide Is Linked to How Much Money You Make

June 8, 2017, 5:55 PM UTC
Hands Presenting Heart
Photograph by TommL—via Getty Images/Vetta

Human health, while strongly influenced by genetics, is also inextricably intertwined with our environments, socioeconomic realities, and day-to-day behavior. And new research highlights just how much your lot in life can affect medical well-being, including heart health.

Low-income Americans saw no improvements in blood pressure, their risk of heart disease, or a drop in the share of people who smoke between 2011 and 2014 compared with the period running from 1999 to 2004, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology. That’s a far cry from high-income people, who experienced gains across the board.

For instance, the proportion of poorer Americans who had 20% or higher risk of heart disease actually increased in the early 2010s even as it dropped by 2.5 percentage points for the rich. High-income people also experienced a 4-point drop in average systolic blood pressure.

Perhaps most concerning is the study’s findings that the smoking rate hasn’t changed in poor populations; among the rich, it’s fallen more than five percentage points.

Earlier research has found that your zip code is one of the strongest indicators of your health, and that regions with more economic inequality have higher rates of chronic illness and worse medical outcomes.

This essay appears in today’s edition of the Fortune Brainstorm Health Daily. Get it delivered straight to your inbox.