Risk of heart failure is ‘much higher’ in certain areas – study

The signs and symptoms of heart failure

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Heart failure stems from the fist-sized organ’s inability to pump enough blood for the body’s needs. The faulty mechanism means that your heart needs some support to help it work better. Worryingly, where you live could determine your risk, according to a new study.

Whether it’s the rush hour when crowds occupy tube stations, squeezing together in tight spaces, or the steep rent prices that only seem to be rising, no one blames you for thinking about moving to the countryside from time to time.

You might even build a quite compelling argument in your head, thinking that leaving the city smoke behind will also boost your health.

However, a new surprising study might make you think twice about this idea.

According to research, published in JAMA Cardiology, adults living in rural areas have a “much higher” risk of developing heart failure, compared to their urban counterparts.

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The study reported that those who live in the countryside or any area that is located outside towns and cities have a 19 percent higher risk of the heart condition. Worryingly, this risk was even higher for white women and Black men. 

Black men living in rural places had an especially higher risk – 34 percent – while the risk among white women was measured at 22 percent.

This first-of-its-kind study underlines the importance of developing more customised approaches to heart failure prevention in rural residents, particularly Black men.

Véronique L. Roger, the study’s corresponding author, said: “We did not expect to find a difference of this magnitude in heart failure among rural communities compared to urban communities, especially among rural-dwelling Black men.

“This study makes it clear that we need tools or interventions specifically designed to prevent heart failure in rural populations, particularly among Black men living in these areas.”

Study co-author Sarah Turecamo added: “It is much easier to prevent heart failure than to reduce its mortality once you have it.”

Researchers arrived at these findings by analysing data from The Southern Community Cohort Study, which is long-term health research of adults in the south-eastern United States. 

They compared the rates of new-onset heart failure among rural and urban residents in 12 states, ranging from Alabama to Florida and Tennessee to West Virginia.

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The study cohort included 27,115 adults without heart failure at enrolment, who were followed for about 13 years. Nearly 20 percent of these participants lived in rural areas.

Almost 69 percent were Black adults recruited from community health centres that care for medically underserved populations.

Even after adjusting for other cardiovascular risk factors and socioeconomic status, the risk of heart failure was still higher in the rural dwellers.

Interestingly, there was no association between rural living and heart failure risk among white men.

Before you start packing your bags eager for a city move, this is just one study and the exact reasons behind these rural-urban health disparities are currently unclear.

However, the research team said a multitude of factors may be at play, including structural racism, inequities in access to health care, and a lack of grocery stores that provide affordable and healthy foods.

David Goff, director of National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, said: “Finding an association between living in rural areas and an increased incidence of heart failure is an important advance, especially given its implications for helping to address geographic-, gender-, and race-based disparities.

“We look forward to future studies testing interventions to prevent heart failure in rural populations as we continue to fight heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.”

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