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Poor surroundings may affect the heart

The incidence of heart disease and associated fatalities are higher for people who live in poor neighbourhoods.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2007 19:11 IST

People who live in poor neighbourhoods may face the risk of developing heart disease, according to a study that shows for the first time the influence of your locality on heart attack or stroke.

It is already known that people with physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking etc face the risk of stroke and heart attack.

However, according to the new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the incidence of heart disease and associated fatalities are higher for people who live in poor neighbourhoods in relation those who live in more affluent areas, said the health portal News Medical.

The study by Marilyn Winkleby, PhD, professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Centre, who conducted the study along with colleagues from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and UC-San Francisco, has appeared in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers analysed data for the entire Swedish population - 1.9 million women and 1.8 million men living in more than 8,000 neighbourhoods.

They selected people without any history of coronary heart disease and then followed them from 1996 through 2000 to identify initial occurrences of coronary heart disease and subsequent deaths from heart disease within a year's time of that occurrence.

They found that new cases of heart attacks and stroke were 1.9 times higher for women and 1.5 times higher for men who lived in high-deprivation versus low-deprivation neighbourhoods.

The researchers used census data to determine the level of neighbourhood "deprivation," which was measured by an index of education, income, unemployment, and welfare assistance levels.

Results also showed that the chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke in the first year after having an event was 1.6 times higher for women and 1.7 times higher for men in high- versus low-deprivation neighbourhoods.

Interestingly, even when individual characteristics - such as age, marital status, family income, and education or immigration status - were taken into consideration, the results remained the same.

"We need to rethink health problems to include factors in neighbourhoods, such as building neighbourhood parks and providing accessible grocery stores with quality, affordable produce. Everybody deserves to live in a healthy neighbourhood," the researchers said.

First Published: Feb 19, 2007 18:00 IST