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Neighborhood can improve heart health

March 16, 2012 at 10:13 PM

EVANSTON, Ill., March 16 (UPI) -- Neighborhoods with grocery stores, healthy food, parks and pleasant places to walk are associated with ideal cardiovascular health, U.S. researchers say.

Study author Erin Unger, a medical student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., said the study involved 6,047 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, with baseline measurements of cholesterol, body mass index, diet, physical activity, fasting glucose, blood pressure and smoking.

Participants were determined as having poor, intermediate or ideal levels of seven risk factors and an overall score was determined that described their cardiovascular risk profile.

Study participants with ideal cardiovascular health were more likely to be age 55 and under, male, Caucasian and highly educated, the researchers said.

"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," Unger said in a statement. "This study demonstrates the importance of where we live. Our neighborhood can play a significant role in our health."

The finding were presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism scientific sessions in San Diego.

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