Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Adults who experience stress related to their personal finances are up to twice as likely to die following a heart attack than those who worry less about money, a study published Monday by JAMA Internal Medicine found.
Among heart attack sufferers who reported "severe financial strain," 17% died within six months of being discharged from the hospital, the data showed.
Of those who reported "moderate financial strain," defined as having "just enough [money] to make ends meet," 9% died within six months of hospital discharge following a heart attack, the researchers said.
In comparison, among patients who indicated they had no financial strain because they "had more than enough money to make ends meet each month," 7% died within six months of hospital discharge, according to the researchers.
"Financial strain is a potent predictor of poor health outcomes for older adults with acute myocardial infarction, even after accounting for how sick older adults were before and during their hospitalization," study co-author Jason R. Falvey told UPI in an email.
"Measuring financial strain allows clinicians to identify a distinct subset of vulnerable older adults for whom targeted intervention pathways are needed," said Falvey, an assistant professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
An acute myocardial infarction, which is commonly called a heart attack, occurs when blood flow to the coronary artery of the heart is disrupted, causing damage to the muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort, according to the American Heart Association.
About 1 million people in the United States die annually after a heart attack, the association estimates.
Recent studies have found that more than 10% of people with heart disease nationally are unable to afford needed medications, and without this treatment they are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Other research has shown that financial stress also can negatively impact heart health.
For this study, Falvey and his colleagues analyzed data for more than 2,850 adults 75 years old and older who were discharged from the hospital alive after having a heart attack.
Of 1,864 who reported having no financial strain, 134 died within six months of hospital discharge following a heart attack, the data showed.
Among 796 who indicated they had moderate financial strain, 74 died within six months of hospital discharge, the researchers said.
Of the 191 who reported severe financial strain, 32 died within six months of being discharged from the hospital following a heart attack, researchers said.
"Many older adults who are financially strained skip important medical care, or don't fill prescriptions because of cost-related concerns," Falvey said.
"Sharing these concerns with a primary care provider is important, so they can help find lower-cost treatment alternatives or refer you for other services so older adults get the care they need," he said.