Researchers found that people with lower incomes have a higher risk of many diseases.

Inflammation, the body’s stress response, may link poverty with heart disease, diabetes and cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health funded research.

The participants living in the lowest-income neighborhoods had four times the risk of a major cardiac event over the next five years than those living in the highest-income neighborhoods.

In a previous study, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol led a team from Harvard Medical School to measure brain activity in an area that helps regulate the body’s stress response.

That study found that people with higher levels of stress had more inflammation in their arteries.

In follow-up research, Tawakol and his colleagues used data from the U.S. Census to determine income levels for each participant.

The team did acknowledge that some of this risk is driven by less access to health care or lifestyle factors.

The team calculated that this pathway linking the brain to inflammation could account for 28% of the total effect that poverty has on the risk of heart disease.

“These observations point to a mechanism that may be an attractive target for future therapies aimed at reducing disparities in health outcomes,” Tawakol says.