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Living near ‘food swamps’ – areas with lots of fast-food chains and convenience stores – raises risk of stroke by 13%, study suggests
The term ‘food swamp’ was coined more than a decade ago to define communities where there are high quantities of fast-food chains and convenience shops – ‘swamping’ neighbourhoods with unhealthy eating options rather than healthy food choices.
Now, research suggests people who live in these areas could be at a higher risk of stroke.
A team from Columbia University analysed data on nearly 18,000 people living across the US.
Two categories were created for ‘retail food environment index’, which indicates whether a person lives in a ‘food swamp’ area or not.
A ratio of higher than five means there were five times the number of unhealthy food retailers, such as convenience stories, fast-food outlets and restaurants, compared to healthy ones such as grocery stores and farmers’ markets.
Researchers warn that people who have easy access to unhealthy foods are more likely to suffer a stroke. These areas are described as ‘food swamps’ by researchers (file photo)
Meanwhile a ratio of lower than five meant that the ratio was not as large.
Analysis revealed the majority of people – nearly three-quarters – lived in areas with a ratio of higher than five, suggesting they lived in a ‘food swamp’.
And adults aged 50 or over who lived in these areas had a 13 per cent increased risk of having a stroke over the course of the six-year study period.
Lead author Dixon Yang said: ‘Despite major advances in stroke care, stroke continues to be a significant problem, and some people will remain at risk despite optimal medical treatment.
‘An unhealthy diet negatively impacts blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels that increases the risk of stroke.
‘Living in a neighbourhood with an abundance of poor food choices may be an important factor to consider for many people.’
The researchers said giving people who live in these areas dietary guidance to improve their cardiovascular health could be a solution to the problem.
‘At this early stage of our research, it’s important to raise awareness that a person’s neighbourhood and food environment are potentially important factors affecting their health,’ Mr Yang Added.
Figures suggest that 100,000 people in the UK have strokes every year, with one happening every five minutes.
A separate study recently found that eating when sad, stressed or heartbroken could be bad for heart health in the long run,
Researchers found emotional eating was linked with stiffer arteries and a stiffer heart, which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
The current findings were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Dallas, Texas.