Everyone knows fast food is not good for your health. But simply living near a cluster of fast-food restaurants is associated with a higher risk of having a stroke, according to recent research.
The study found that people who are 50 and older and live near a so-called “food swamp” — where there is a high density of fast-food and junk-food options — had a 13% higher risk of stroke than people who lived in neighborhoods with more healthful options.
The study findings, which have yet to be published, will be presented next week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2023.
In arriving at their findings, researchers reviewed data from the Health and Retirement Study, an ongoing study conducted at the University of Michigan that features participants from across the U.S.
This data was then matched against U.S. Department of Agriculture data about food environments to create a retail food environment index. The index indicates a ratio of the number of unhealthy food retailers (like convenience stores and fast-food restaurants) to the number of healthy food retailers (like grocery stores and farmers markets) in a given neighborhood.
The researchers said most of the nearly 18,000 participants in the study lived in neighborhoods where there are about six times as many unhealthy food options as there are healthy options.
In a summary of the researchers’ findings, Dr. Dixon Yang, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, says:
“An unhealthy diet negatively impacts blood pressure, blood glucose and cholesterol levels that increases the risk of stroke. Independent of one’s own demographics or socioeconomic status, living in a neighborhood with an abundance of poor food choices may be an important factor to consider for many people.”
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