Midlife 'wealth shock' can lead to death

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows a sudden loss of wealth, called wealth shock, was tied with a 50 percent greater risk of dying and could be as dangerous as a new diagnosis of heart disease.

No matter how much money they had to start, middle-aged Americans who experienced a sudden, large economic blow were more likely to die.

McGovern Medical School UTHealth sports cardiologist Dr. John Higgins said anytime there's physical or emotional stress—it can affect the heart.

“That has affects on the cardiovascular system. For example, it will increase heart rate, it can increase blood pressure, it can also make the blood thicker resulting in them having more clots,” said Higgins.

He said high blood pressure and stress levels can lead to heart attack or stroke.

“There’s another condition called stress cardiomyopathy, where their heart gets very dilated and it can’t pump normally and in fact they can even die. This can happen not from a physical thing, but actually an emotional thing,” said Higgins.

For example, if someone had all their money in a 401K and the market crashes, the blood pressure or stress levels could put you into a wealth shock.

Those affects can either be acute or chronic.

Women were more likely than men to have a wealth shock.

The effect was more marked if the person lost a home as part of the wealth shock. The results were more prominent for people with fewer assets.

Higgins suggested people need to have a good support network and good coping mechanisms, exercise daily, get out in the fresh air, continue taking medications, get enough sleep, get vaccinations, have a good positive attitude to handle problems and don't dwell on the bad. Also, drink in moderation and avoid unhealthy foods.

Remember good health is better than having wealth.

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