“Location, location, location” isn’t just an old real estate cliché. It’s also a major factor when it comes to heart health, according to an overview article published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
The article studied a growing body of literature on the relationship between neighborhoods and heart health and “the complex web of inter-related social, economic and physical factors that appear to influence health behaviors and cardiovascular risk.”
The article concluded that “where patients live may be an important contributor to the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.”
“ZIP code matters as much, if not more than genetic code, at least for some people,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., chief medical officer for prevention at the American Heart Association.
“Neighborhood characteristics make a difference,” he said. “Behavior factors like what you eat, how sedentary you are, and whether you smoke are all affected by social factors like the quality of your neighborhood and the income of your neighborhood … not just the income of the individual.”
Where you live “makes it easier or more difficult to adopt and especially maintain health behaviors like being physically active, consuming fewer calories, or consuming more fruits and vegetables,” said Ana Diez Roux, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., dean, and professor of epidemiology at Drexel University. “The environment interacts with personal characteristics and can serve as a facilitator or impediment in subtle but very important ways.”
One of the biggest impediments to heart health is an inability for people to walk, bike and exercise in many lower-income neighborhoods, said Sanchez.