01/12/2014 09:07 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Poor People May Suffer More After A Heart Attack, Study Finds

Socioeconomic status could play a role in whether a person becomes frail after a heart attack, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that the risk of becoming clinically frail (determined by a number of factors that indicate deterioration of health) after a heart attack is twice as high for poor people compared to wealthy people.

"By defining frailty, which combines many areas of medicine, we can predict which people are at the highest risk after a heart attack," study researcher Vicki Myers said in a statement. "And we found a strong connection between frailty and socioeconomic status."

The study, which is published in the International Journal of Cardiology, included 1,151 people in Israel who had experienced a heart attack 10 to 13 years before the start of the study. Researchers applied an index of 40 health variables to determine the participants' frailty; the variables included things like energy levels, health problems and diseases (like diabetes), physical inactivity, weight loss, daily living limitations, ability to climb stairs, and health deterioration.

Thirty-five percent of the study participants were deemed frail in the decade following their heart attacks. In addition to socioeconomic status, which was determined by education level and family income, researchers found that being older, being obese, and having suffered a severe heart attack were all factors that seemed associated with being frail post-heart attack. They were also more likely to have lived in a poorer neighborhood and to have been unemployed.

Troublingly, researchers found that these frail patients were less likely to receive medications commonly taken after heart attack, to be admitted to intensive care and to have had surgery.