Life in Poor Neighborhoods Is Hard on the Heart

From - January 9, 2018

Life in Poor Neighborhoods Is Hard on the Heart

TUESDAY, Jan. 9, 2018 -- Where you live could influence how likely you are to develop heart failure, a new U.S. study suggests.

In addition to people's income and education level, the neighborhood in which they lived helped predict their risk, according to the researchers. People living in the poorest areas were at highest risk for heart failure, the researchers found.

The availability of gyms, places to buy healthy foods and medical facilities accounted for nearly 5 percent of the increased heart failure risk in low-income areas, the study suggested. The researchers noted that improving access to these resources could benefit people living in these neighborhoods.

"There is existing evidence suggesting strong, independent associations between personal socioeconomic status -- like education, income level and occupation -- and risks of heart failure and many other chronic diseases," said study author Loren Lipworth. She's an associate professor of epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

"What this study adds is evidence suggesting that characteristics of your place of residence actually also play a significant role in influencing the risk of heart failure over and above the role of your own individual socioeconomic characteristics," she said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "It opens the door for possible interventions that center on preventive measures in the community."

The researchers used Census data on just over 27,000 middle-aged residents, to compare neighborhood socioeconomic variables in 12 southeastern states. The data included residents' wealth, education, jobs and housing patterns.

Most of the participants were underinsured and lived in areas with limited resources. More than half lived in the most deprived neighborhoods, and 75 percent earned less than $15,000 a year. Nearly 39 percent did not have a high school diploma, and 44 percent were obese.

During an average follow-up period of more than five years, 4,300 people were diagnosed with heart failure.

Those living in low-income areas were at highest risk for heart failure. The researchers noted that as socioeconomic status dropped from one community to the next, the risk for the condition increased 12 percent.

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