People who live in neighborhoods with parks, grocery stores, healthy food options and hiking trails are far more likely to have healthier hearts, a new study has found.
Northwestern University, reporting a recent meeting of the American Heart Association, said they found better health among residents of communities with easy access to grocery stores and fruit/vegetable markets, recreational facilities and “pleasant walking environments.”
Residents of neighborhoods with “unfavorable food stores” -- fast food joints, liquor stores and convenience marts – and fewer parks and recreational resources were generally not as healthy.
"The most significant neighborhood factors that lead to ideal health were access to recreational resources like parks and trails where people can walk in safety and comfort, and the availability of healthy foods," said Erin Unger, a study author. "These are some of the first findings showing that your neighborhood and where you live influences your overall cardiovascular health."
For the study, researchers tracked the health of 6,047 people – including their levels of cholesterol, weight, diet, physical activity, blood pressure, glucose and smoking habits.
Participants were ranked as having poor, intermediate or ideal levels of seven risk factors to determine their overall level of heart health. Researchers also assessed characteristics of the participants’ neighborhoods.
They reported the connection between health and neighborhood features at a recent meeting of the American Heart Association on the science of nutrition and physical activity.