Walkable Neighborhoods may Lower the Risk for Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month and today February 7 women all over the United States are wearing red to raise awareness among millions of people of the need to eradicate heart disease and stroke. Research shows that living a healthy lifestyle that includes getting enough physical exercise can prevent heart disease. According to a study published October 31, 2019 in JAHA Journal of the American Heart Association, walkable neighborhoods may lower the risk for heart disease. A walkable-friendly neighborhood is considered to be one that is easy and safe to walk around in.

The study was carried out by researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health in Toronto, Canada. People who live in unwalkable neighborhoods are usually less physically active and this in turn can lead to obesity, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes.

The CANHEART (Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team) Cohort

There were 44,448 people in this study who were residing in major Canadian urban centers on January 1, 2008. The researchers analyzed data from the CANHEART (Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team) cohort. They also checked neighborhoods of the participants for walkability such as the number of walkable places in each neighborhood. They also assessed the participants for systolic blood pressure, total and high‐density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, previous diagnosis of diabetes and smoking, all of which are high risk factors for heart disease.

Results

People who lived in less walkable neighborhoods had up to 33% greater risk for heart disease than those who lived in good walkable areas. Those that did not live in walk friendly neighborhoods also had much higher blood pressure and a greater chance of having been previously diagnosed with diabetes.

According to Dr.Nicholas Howell, the first author of the study, walkable neighborhoods have significant health benefits.

Dr. Gillian Booth, the lead author of the study says that according to previous research, the way cities and communities are laid out can have a significant influence on our health. In fact, a future risk for a cardiovascular event can be predicted according to the walkability of your neighborhood.

The results also show that people living in less walkable neighborhoods should look for other ways to get proper physical exercise. Getting enough physical exercise is linked to all kinds of health benefits. See our blog post from December 10, 2019 about how walking can lower the risk for osteoarthritis. Also, see our blog post from November 15, 2019 about how even light walking can help prevent fractures and osteoporosis.

Smoking, which is a high risk for heart attacks and strokes, was found to be higher among people living in the more walkable neighborhoods.

Heart Disease in the United States

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States:
  • One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
  • About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year (1 in every 4 deaths).
  • Heart disease costs the United States about $219 billion each year.
  • Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease.
  • About 18.2 million adults age 20 and older have CAD (about 6.7%).
  • In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
  • Every year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack.
  • About 1 in 5 heart attacks is a silent  heart attack—the damage is done, but the person is not aware of it.

Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) at Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center

If you or your loved one are recovering from a heart attack or heart surgery, the Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey has an excellent cardiac rehabilitation program and a state-of-the-art gym. Read more about how cardiac rehabilitation (CR) can ad up to five more years of life in our blog post from July 11, 2019.

Conclusion

It certainly pays to do everything to prevent heart disease, especially getting enough physical exercise like walking.

 

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