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Study: Stock dips bad for the heart

ATLANTA - Stock market slides may hurt more than your savings. New research suggests they might prompt heart attacks.

Duke University researchers found a link between how the Nasdaq stock index performed and how many heart attacks were treated at their North Carolina hospital shortly after the recession began in December 2007 through July 2009, when signs of recovery emerged.

The trend weakened after they did a second analysis taking into account seasons of the year. Some research suggests heart attacks are more common in winter, meaning the initial finding could have been a statistical fluke.

However, leading scientists unconnected with the work said they found it plausible and worth further research in a nationwide study.

Earlier studies have found higher rates of heart problems after World Cup soccer matches, earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina and other stressful events.

Mona Fiuzat, a doctor of pharmacy and researcher at Duke, had the idea for the new study. She tallied all patients who had a heart attack among those coming to the hospital for a test to detect heart disease. There were 965 heart attacks during the study period. She then researched economic indices and how to best measure financial changes over time.

As stock market values decreased, the incidence of heart attacks rose; the reverse also was true, she found. The trend did not hold up when adjusted for seasons of the year.

Dr. James McClurken of Temple University in Philadelphia also questioned how much impact winter in a place like North Carolina would have on heart attack rates.

"Do they really have that much harsh seasonality in that area?" he said. This winter, yes, but not usually, he said.

- AP

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