Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:06 AM ET
Living paycheck to paycheck isn't just bad for your bank account. Earning low wages could put you at risk for high blood pressure, upping your chances of developing a slew of health problems like heart disease and stroke, according to a new study published in the European Journal of Public Health.
Researchers examined the health data for 5,000 people aged 25 to 65, whose information was collected every two years from 1999 to 2005 and who didn't have high blood pressure at the beginning of the study. The results: Workers with the lowest wages were more likely to have hypertension than workers with the highest wages. The correlation was particularly strong among women and people between the ages of 25 to 44, a finding the researchers didn't expect but say makes sense, since those groups are likely to be working lower-wage jobs. (Have you been told you have high blood pressure? You might not! Discover The Crazy Reason You May Have Been Misdiagnosed with Hypertension.)
Previous research has linked blood pressure to socioeconomic status, but not wages specifically. The link could be because of the social stresses associated with income, says lead study author J. Paul Leigh, a professor of health economics at the University of California, Davis. "Some people will, unfortunately, measure their social worth based upon their wages," he says. "Another factor is simple day-to-day hassles, especially for lower-income people."
But just how low is low? Researchers started noticing hypertension in those making $17 an hour or less. Adjusting for inflation, that's about $23 an hour--or about $47,000 a year for full-time salaried folks. Future research could determine if blood pressure increases as salaries decrease, Leigh notes. In this economy, you might have to stick with your low salary for now--but you shouldn't have to settle for hypertension. Here are three surprising ways to keep your blood pressure in check.
Sleep Like a Baby
A 2009 study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who slept fewer than 7 or 8 hours or had poor sleep were more likely to have high blood pressure. That risk increased by 37 percent for each missed hour of sleep. Searching for more shuteye? Try these 10 Gadgets and Apps for Better Sleep.
Flip to the Classical Station
In a study presented at the Society of Hypertension's 2012 annual meeting, Italian researchers found that listening to 30 minutes of Mozart a day can decrease blood pressure. (Listening to Queen, on the other hand, actually increased blood pressure in study participants.) And a 2011 study by researchers at Osaka University in Japan found that when participants listened to their favorite music for an hour every other week, they lowered their blood pressure by 6 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) in 3 months.
Bananas contain about 422 milligrams of potassium, which, according to the American Heart Association, can help control blood pressure because of its ability to lessen the effects of sodium, a known culprit of high blood pressure. Other foods surprisingly rich in potassium include potatoes (751 milligrams in an average-sized potato), edamame (970 mg per cup), and avocados (975 mg). The American Heart Association recommends consuming 4,700 milligrams of potassium a day. (Save your heart and your health with The Lean Belly Prescription, the no-diet plan that's better than running 5 miles a day!)
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