Neighborhoods with Low Walkability Have Higher CVD Risk

Adults living in neighborhoods with low walkability have a higher 10-year risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those living in highly walkable areas, a new study indicates.

The researchers looking at the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) cohort, publishing in the Journal of the American Heart Association, used data from a population-based sample drawn from electronic medical records and administrative health data in 15 localities in Ontario, Canada. The team assessed walkability with a validated population-based index and residential density, street connectivity, and walkable destination data, then divided them into quintiles (Q1 being least walkable, and Q5 being most walkable). They used the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) Pooled Cohort Equation risk scores to calculate 10-year CVD risk, which was established as the primary study outcome. The study included a total of 44,448 individuals.

According to the analysis results, the fully adjusted analysis showed a nonlinear relationship between neighborhood walkability and 10-year predicted CVD risk (Q1 vs. Q5 odds ratio (OR)=1.09; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.22), and the most significant difference was between Q3 and Q5 (OR-1.33; 95% CI, 1.23 to 1.45). They also reported dose-response relationships for systolic blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and diabetes risk, and an inverse relationship with smoking status.

“This research demonstrates that a future cardiovascular risk can be predicted based on the walkability of your residence,” said Dr. Gillian Booth, lead study author and senior adjunct scientist with ICES (the not-for-profit research institute where the Ontario data is held and analyzed), said in a press release. “This research should be an encouragement for those living in less walkable neighborhoods to source physical activities in other ways.”

Dr. Nicholas Howell, a co-author on the study and a PhD graduate in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s, added: “From a public policy perspective, the findings support the idea that the benefits of walkable neighborhoods could be significant enough to move the dial for individual health.”