Sept. 25 (UPI) -- Being wealthy appears to reduce a person's risk for heart disease -- at least in the United States -- based on the findings of an analysis published Friday by JAMA Network Open.
The prevalence of conditions such as congestive heart failure, angina and stroke among individuals with incomes in the top 20% nationally ranged from roughly 1% to 1.5%, the data showed.
For the remaining 80% of people, however, the prevalence of these conditions ranged from about 2.8% to 3.1%, the researchers said.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of heart attack was about 3.9% among the poorest 80%, compared to about 2.1% for the wealthiest 20%, researchers found.
"Our results suggest that the public conversation around income inequality should move beyond a 'top 1%' narrative to one that acknowledges that the richest 20% of Americans are 'pulling away' on health from the poorest 80%," study co-author Dr. Salma Abdalla told UPI.
"We expected to see a disparity but the scale was surprising to us," said Abdalla, a research fellow at the Boston University School of Public Health.
The findings of Abdallah and her colleagues are based on an analysis of data on nearly 45,000 American adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2016.
In the 20% of participants with the highest household incomes, the prevalence of angina fell to 0.3% from 3.4% between 1999 and 2016, while the prevalence of heart attack dropped to 1.4% from 3.2% over the same period, the data showed.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of congestive heart failure in this group declined to 0.5% from 1.2% and the prevalence of stroke remained flat at around 1%.
Although people in the remaining 80% also saw declines in the prevalence of angina -- to 2.6% from 3.3% -- and heart attack -- to 3.6% from 4% -- they "decreased at a much lower rate," Abdalla said.
In addition, the prevalence of congestive heart failure -- to 2.8% from 2.6% and stroke -- to 3.2% from 2.9% -- increased among the 80% of those with the lowest incomes during the study period, the data showed.
"These two conditions are important because they are associated with high out-of-pocket and healthcare expenditures, which adds to the disproportionate burden of cardiovascular disease in the U.S.," Abdalla said.
"Understanding why the disparities are widening will require further research, but [our findings] suggest that our current system and approach leaves the vast majority of Americans under-served," she said.