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Homes Near Roads Boost Cardiac Deaths in Women

Update Date: Oct 13, 2014 09:18 PM EDT

Women who live close to major roads are significantly more likely to die of cardiac conditions.

While previous studies show that people who live near major roadways only have a modest increase in coronary heart disease, the latest study revealed that the risk of sudden cardiac health is significantly higher. Researchers said the latest findings suggest that roadway proximity is a marker for air pollution exposure.

"It's important for healthcare providers to recognize that environmental exposures may be under-appreciated risk factors for diseases such as sudden cardiac death and fatal coronary heart disease," said Jaime E. Hart, Sc.D., study lead author and an instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. "On a population level, living near a major roadway was as important a risk factor as smoking, diet or obesity."

The latest study involved 107,130 women with an average age of 60 who took part in the Nurses' Health Study from 1986-2012.

The study revealed that living within 50 meters of 165 feet of a major road increased the risk sudden cardiac death by 38 percent. Furthermore, each 100 meters of 328 feet closer to major roadways was associated with a 6 percent increased risk for sudden cardiac death.

"Regardless of where you live, adopting heart-healthy habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating nutritious foods, quitting smoking, and managing stress, can help decrease your risk of heart and blood vessel disease," said Hart, who is also an instructor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Our next step is to try to determine what specific exposures, such as air pollution, are driving the association between heart disease and major roadway proximity," Hart concluded.

The findings are published in the journal Circulation.

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