ORLANDO, Fla. — People who moved from a low-walkability neighborhood to a high-walkability neighborhood saw a drop in their chance of getting hypertension, according to findings presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.
According to a press release from the AHA, the study is the first to assess whether moving to a walking-friendly neighborhood impacts BP.
Maria Chiu, MSc, PhD, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, and colleagues analyzed 1,057 pairs of propensity-score matched adults from the Canadian Community Health Survey, conducted between 2001 and 2010. During the study period, all participants moved from a low-walkability neighborhood to a high-walkability neighborhood or another low-walkability neighborhood. Walkability was assessed by the Walk Score index, which measures walking distance from a geographic location to amenities ranging from schools to parks to restaurants.
The researchers obtained BP data from health administrative databases and followed participants for up to 11 years. Median follow-up was 4 years.
Chiu and colleagues found that the incidence rates of hypertension were 8.6 per 1,000 person-years for those who moved to a high-walkability neighborhood and 18 per 1,000 person-years for those who moved to a low-walkability neighborhood (P < .001).
Chiu said at a press conference that compared with the low-walkability group, the high-walkability group had a 54% reduced risk for developing hypertension (HR = 0.46; 95% CI, 0.26-0.81).
“Low-to-high movers had significantly lower risk of incident hypertension, which would suggest that high-walking neighborhoods can in fact positively influence your health,” she said. “Therefore, we need to raise awareness of the importance of neighborhood walkability, not only to physicians and health care providers, but also to the public. We’ve already started to do this.”
Limitations of the study include no serial measurement of BP and little information on diet and environmental attributes, according to the researchers.
Further analyses indicated a dose-response relationship between incident hypertension and Walk Score index, Chiu said. “We did further analysis that looked at a dose-response relationship not only with 70 as a cutpoint and 50 as a cutpoint, but also on a continuous scale,” she said. “We looked at moving from a low-walkability neighborhood to one with a higher score in increments of 10 and we saw a very clear dose-response relationship.” ˗ by Erik Swain
Chiu M, et al. Abstract 134. Presented at: American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Nov. 7-11, 2015; Orlando, Fla.
Chiu M, et al. Environ Health Perspect. 2015;doi:10.1289/ehp.1510425.
Disclosure: Chiu reports no relevant financial disclosures.