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Poor neighbourhoods 'at higher risk of stroke'

15th February 2007

People living in poor neighbourhoods are more at risk of stroke and heart disease than those from more affluent areas, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed data from the 1.9 million women and 1.8 million men living in Sweden's 8,000 neighbourhoods.

Women from deprived areas - which were defined based on education, income and welfare levels – were 1.9 times more at risk of heart disease and stroke and the risk for men was 1.5 times higher.

"This is one of the largest studies to date to show that neighborhoods exert a pretty powerful influence on your chance of having a heart attack or stroke," said professor of medicine at the Stanford Prevention Research Center Marilyn Winkleby, who led the study.

"It's not surprising when you think about the health behaviours related to heart disease and stroke - physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking - and think about how neighborhoods can influence these," Dr Winkleby added in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine study.

The results remained the same even when researchers accounted for individual characteristics such as age, family income and education into account.

Felicia LeClere, a population expert who was not involved with the study, added: "We often think that wealth and education can insulate us from the assaults of our immediate environment.

"The findings of this study suggest that this assumption is misguided."