A sudden income drop can take a toll on an individual's health, according to a study.  The study stated that big pay cut can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The research that was published in the medical journal JAMA cardiology earlier this month tried to find out if a big income drop is related to various health problems.  Through the study, a group of researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston found an association between a change in income and heart problems.

The research team found out that an individual may suffer from a heart attack or stroke years after the person had struggled with several financial problems. The study suggested that it could be due to too much focus on money after a sudden income drop.

The researchers explained further that when a person is forced to pay more attention to money, he may struggle to focus on healthcare.  In other words, eating unhealthy and high-calorie food, drinking, and smoking, as well as financial stress, can increase the risk of several cardiovascular problems.

"Social factors like income can have a significant impact on an individual’s health," lead researcher Stephen Wang told Reuters.

For the study, the research team looked into the income changes of nearly 9000 middle-aged adults for six years. On an average, all the participants in the study were 53-years-old and none of them were diagnosed with any kind of cardiovascular disease, like heart failure, stroke or heart attack, at the beginning of the research.

During the study period, most of the participants had a steady income, but 20 percent of them witnessed a 50 percent surge in their income and 10 percent saw a pay cut of 50 percent.

After following-up on the participants for nearly 17 years, the research team found out that those participants with big income drop had a 17 percent higher risk of heart attack, stroke or heart failure than their counterparts with steady or increased income.

Financial hardship could be a major reason for the increased risk of heart problems, but the biological response to stress can also be a major reason for it, Edward Havranek, author of an editorial accompanying the study and director of Medicine at Denver Health Medical Center in Colorado said.

"While chronic stress raises blood pressure and probably causes inflammation that affects blood vessels, I tend to believe the social and economic effects are more important. A sudden income drop likely makes it harder to afford healthcare, and forces people to pay attention to money rather than taking good care of themselves", he added.

Havranek further explained how the death of a spouse or divorce can lead to a big income drop.  According to him, losing a job is not the only thing that can lead to an income drop.

Lead researcher Wang believes that looking ahead for future financial problems and saving at least three to six months of income for emergency backup may reduce the risk of heart problems related to a sudden pay cut.

"Having close friends and family for support during financially stressful times may also reduce risk," Wang said, adding, "Lastly, since income drops are so common, it’s important for our society to create safety nets to support individuals when these situations occur".

One of the major limitations of the study is that the research team was unable to find out whether the income drop caused various health problems or the health problems were a major cause for a pay cut.

How to lower risk of heart attack by eating the right kinds of food How to lower risk of heart attack by eating the right kinds of food Photo: Pexels