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Heart Health Affected By Neighbourhoods: Toronto Study

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A new study suggests that where you live may be a contributing factor when it comes to assessing your risk of cardiac arrest.

The study, done by researchers at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, focuses on the country's largest city but its findings could be applied to other parts of the country.

Simply put, the study suggests that some areas of Toronto — especially in southwest and central Scarborough, western parts of North York and north Etobicoke — had the highest rates of cardiac arrest, about 500 per 100,000 people.

The communities with the lowest rates were those within north Scarborough, downtown Toronto, East York and the northeast part of North York. Those rates were about 160 per 100,000 people.

Katherine Allan, the PhD student who led the study, looked at more than 5,000 cardiac arrest victims in 140 neighbourhoods across Toronto between 2006 and 2010.

Normally cardiac victims are mapped by where the attack happened. But Allan's study mapped the home addresses of the victims.

Mapping by neighbourhood can add to information about lifestyle and environment, the researchers said.

The study found that in some neighbourhoods people are more at risk — and by a large factor in some cases.

Each neighbourhood was examined for possible contributing factors, such as socio-economic status, health status and "how activity friendly the neighbourhoods were."

Those areas with higher household incomes and higher levels of education showed a lower risk of cardiac arrest, according to the preliminary analyses.

“The data is important for prevention efforts,” Allan states in a news release. “We often look at how to prevent cardiac arrest in terms of getting resources to the areas where it occurred, but this research goes back to see what lifestyle factors or behaviours contribute to the risk.”

Allan told CBC News on Friday that this type of mapping could help health organizations to recognize neighbourhoods that are at risk and help them plan prevention campaigns.

"It could be education campaigns, working in collaboration with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, for example," she said.

The researchers point out that living in a high risk area doesn't mean people should move, "it just means in your neighbourhood there are people at risk and we need to figure out what are those risks so we can prevent it from happening," Allan said.

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