Neighborhoods Are Key for Heart Health
Where patients live may be an important contributor to their risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to a growing body of literature. The research suggests that, because of the complex interplay between individual- and neighborhood-level risk factors, addressing both simultaneously may be necessary to improve patient outcomes.
Epidemiological studies of cardiovascular disease risk have traditionally focused on personal characteristics, including physical activity levels, diet, and smoking, and biological measurements, as well, like blood cholesterol levels, explained Ana Diez-Roux, MD, PhD, MPH, dean and professor of epidemiology at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health. These have led clinicians to appropriately emphasize healthier lifestyles to their patients.
Over the past decade, however, scientists have begun to tease out how an individual’s environment may contribute to whether a person smokes, what kind of diet he or she has, and how much activity he or she gets, Diez-Roux said. Results so far have suggested that neighborhood characteristics like socioeconomic status, segregation, walkability, pollution levels, and access to healthy foods are associated with cardiovascular risk levels.
“Neighborhood matters to cardiovascular health,” said Tiffany Powell-Wiley, MD, MPH, an assistant clinical investigator at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “You can’t just think of your patients as individuals, you have to think of where they are coming from as being important …