It’s not only how you live, but where you live, that may determine your risk of sudden cardiac death, new research suggests.
Heart specialists with Toronto's Kennan Research Centre at St. Michael's Hospital who tracked more than 5,500 sudden cardiac arrests between 2006 and 2010 found 10 city neighborhoods were home to far more victims than 10 other areas of the city.
The 10 most “cardiotoxic” neighborhoods had more older residents with slightly higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure than those deemed “cardiosafe,” said researchers, who presented their findings at a meeting this week of the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress in Toronto, co-hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.
Communities with more victims had three to five times higher rates of cardiac arrests, said the investigators, who speculated that heart-healthy behaviors, cultural, and ethnic factors may account for the large differences.
"The bottom line is that where you live does affect your risk of cardiac arrest. Our research suggests wealth, education and social inclusion are important factors but only explain part of the puzzle," said researcher Dr. Paul Dorian.
For the study, researchers mapped the residential addresses of each of the cardiac arrest patients to one of 140 Toronto neighborhoods to identify the 20 communities with the highest and lowest incidences of heart risks. The results could not be explained by traditional factors alone — such as income, socio-economic status or education levels, said Dorian.
Dr. Beth Abramson, a Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson, suggested one way to reduce the risks in certain neighborhoods is to boost opportunities for residents to get physical activity to ward off heart diease.
"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, noting good public transit, well-maintained parks, and safe, efficient walking and cycling networks make it easier for residents to get regular exercise.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Up to 85 percent of attacks happen in homes and public places, and the survival rate (outside of a hospital) is approximately five percent.