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- vs. low-deprivation neighborhoods.
Interestingly, even when individual characteristics - such as age, marital status, family income, education or immigration status - were taken into consideration, the results remained the same.
'We often think that wealth and education can insulate us from the assaults of our immediate environment,' said Felicia LeClere, PhD, a researcher with the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan who was not involved with the study. 'The findings of this study suggest that this assumption is misguided.'
The study is particularly striking as it follows on the heels of a January study by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, which drew a correlation between the availability of fast-food restaurants in various California counties and incidences of obesity and related deaths. The more fast-food joints, the higher the obesity rates.
Studies such as these, which show the significant effects of neighborhoods on heart health, are important for health-care and government policymakers to take into consideration, Winkleby said.
'This has implications for how we use our health-care dollars,' she said. 'We need to rethink health problems to include factors in neighborhoods, such as building neighborhood parks and providing accessible grocery stores with quality, affordable produce. Everybody deserves to live in a healthy neighborhood.'
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