Wealth may not be able to buy you happiness, but it seems that it can certainly put off heart disease for a new research has found that low-income adults are more likely to have very high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) - a risk factor for heart disease.
The study was conducted by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and University of Southern California (USC).
The researchers found that that among adults with income levels at or below the poverty line, 15.7 per cent had very high levels of CRP, compared to only 9.1 per cent of those in families above the poverty line.
Eileen Crimmins, corresponding author and professor in the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, said that the results of the study gave an explanation for why poor people age faster.
"We have long known that poor people have worse health. This paper provides evidence that people living at or near the poverty line are almost twice as likely to have very high CRP, which poses risks for long-term, chronic conditions like heart disease and cognitive loss. This may be one of the explanations for why poor people age faster," she said.
Recent studies have shown high levels of CRP to be a useful predictor of heart disease. CRP is produced as part of the immune response to inflammation. In healthy individuals, CRP levels return to normal after infection or injury subsides. However, some people have chronically elevated levels of CRP.
Dawn Alley, another corresponding author and a recent doctoral graduate from the USC Davis School said that the study had found that after all risk factors were accounted for, the findings showed that people from low income families still had high levels of CRP.
"We found that even after accounting for various risk factors, people in poverty still had higher CRP. This suggests that even beyond issues like health behaviours and chronic conditions, there is something about poverty that makes people sick, and at least part of this effect is working through CRP," Alley said.
The researchers also found that African Americans, Hispanics and women are more likely to have high levels of CRP, and that obesity is the largest contributor to above normal CRP levels.
The study is published in the current issue of Brain, Behavior and Immunity.