Neighborhoods May Be Cardio-Toxic

Cardiac arrest risk varies by neighborhood

(RxWiki News) When it comes to the health of your heart, it's not just traditional risk factors at play. The chance of your heart stopping also may depend on where you live. Yes, your 'hood' impacts your health.

Researchers have identified "cardio-toxic" neighborhoods where the risk of cardiac arrest was up to five times higher.

Part of the environmental difference in locations may stem from cultural and ethnic differences, and heart healthy behaviors.

"Exercise regularly to promote heart health."

Paul Dorian, MD, a researcher and cardiologist for Kennan Research Centre at St. Michael's Hospital in Canada, said the bottom line of the research indicated that where you live affects your risk of cardiac arrest. He said the findings suggest wealth, education and social factors are important factors, but make up only part of the equation.

Cardiac arrest is when the heart suddenly stops beating, often because of a heart arrhythmia.

Dr. Dorian said understanding the risk of living in certain areas is key to ensuring better health outcomes for patients.

During the study investigators compared 20 neighborhoods in greater Toronto to determine which had the highest and lowest incidences of cardiac arrest in homes or public areas. Researchers examined gender, income levels, education and social inclusion as well as the prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure.

Investigators then reviewed 5,500 cardiac arrest records in those neighborhoods between 2006 and 2010. Each cardiac arrest was then marked as occurring in one of 140 Toronto neighborhoods.

These records were used to pinpoint 10 cardio-toxic neighborhoods, which tended to include a larger percentage of elderly individuals and those with diabetes or hypertension.

They also identified the 10 neighborhoods with the lowest incidence of cardiac arrest, or those which were "cardio-safe."

The findings indicated that the residents of certain cardio-toxic neighborhoods were more likely to experience cardiac arrest. In some areas, the risk could be three to five times higher than cardio-safe areas.

"The link between our health and where we live is well established," said Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson Beth Abramson, MD. "With Canada's high rates of physical inactivity and obesity, it is more important than ever to build communities that encourage active, healthy lifestyles."

She said good public transportation, well-maintained parks and hike and bike trails that are safe and efficient make it easier for individuals to exercise, promoting heart health and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The research was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2012 in Toronto, hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

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Review Date: 
October 29, 2012