Number of fast-food restaurants in neighborhood associated with stroke risk

Feb 19, 2009

The risk of stroke increases with the number of fast-food restaurants in a neighborhood, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2009.

After statistically controlling for demographic and socioeconomic factors, researchers found:

• Residents of neighborhoods with the highest number of fast-food restaurants had a 13 percent higher relative risk of suffering ischemic strokes than those living in areas with the lowest numbers of restaurants.
• The relative risk of stroke increased 1 percent for each fast-food restaurant in a neighborhood.

However, the researchers said the discovery of increased risk only demonstrates an association, it does not prove that fast-food restaurants raise stroke risk.

"The data show a true association," said Lewis B. Morgenstern, M.D., lead author of the study and director of the University of Michigan's stroke program and professor of neurology and epidemiology in Ann Arbor. "What we don't know is whether fast food actually increased the risk because of its contents, or whether fast-food restaurants are a marker of unhealthy neighborhoods."

Neighborhoods with large numbers of the restaurants are prime areas for stroke prevention programs, Morgenstern said. "We need to consider targeting communities that have a lot of fast-food restaurants as places where we can improve health."

The fast food-stroke association emerged from data gathered in the ongoing Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) project, which has identified strokes occurring in Nueces County, Texas, since Jan.1, 2000. This report examined 1,247 ischemic strokes that occurred from the study's start through June 2003.

Nueces County has 262 fast-food restaurants, defined by the researchers as having at least two of four characteristics: rapid food service, takeout business, limited or no wait staff and payment required before receiving food.

The team used the 64 U.S. Census Bureau tracts in Nueces County — from which they obtained demographic and socioeconomic data — as proxies for neighborhoods.

Researchers determined the number of fast-food establishments in each tract, and then sorted the tracts into four groups based on number of fast-food restaurants. Neighborhoods with the lowest numbers of fast-food restaurants (less than 12) were in the 25th percentile and those with the highest numbers (greater than 33) were in the 75th percentile.

The epidemiological study supports previous research that suggested a link between fast food and cardiovascular disease — to which some fast-food chains have responded by including more nutritious options to their menus.

Morgenstern said the report needs to be confirmed and expanded by similar studies of the correlation between fast-food restaurants and stroke in other cities.

"We need to start unraveling why these particular communities have higher stroke risks," Morgenstern said. "Is it direct consumption of fast food? Is it the lack of more healthy options? Is there something completely different in these neighborhoods that is associated with poor health?"

Each year about 780,000 people have a new or recurrent stroke. Of all strokes, 87 percent are ischemic, which result from a blocked artery in the brain or an artery feeding blood to the brain.

Source: American Heart Association

Explore further: Here's to wine, chocolate and a long, healthy life

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US judge fines HP $59 mn for bribing Russian officials

7 hours ago

A judge on Thursday ordered US computer giant Hewlett-Packard to pay $58.8 million for bribing Russian government officials to win a big-money contract with the prosecutor general's office in that nation.

Solar storm heads Earth's way after double sun blasts

8 hours ago

Two big explosions on the surface of the sun will cause a moderate to strong geomagnetic storm on Earth in the coming days, possibly disrupting radio and satellite communications, scientists said Thursday.

US threatened Yahoo with huge fine over surveillance

9 hours ago

US authorities threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it failed to comply with a secret surveillance program requiring it to hand over user data in the name of national security, court documents showed ...

Microbes evolve faster than ocean can disperse them

9 hours ago

Two Northeastern University researchers and their international colleagues have created an advanced model aimed at exploring the role of neutral evolution in the biogeographic distribution of ocean microbes.

Recommended for you

Here's to wine, chocolate and a long, healthy life

58 minutes ago

Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, remains the oldest person on record. One might assume that she led a faultless, healthy lifestyle. Not at all. Every year on her birthday, as her celebri ...

Experts discuss communications gap on vaccines

1 hour ago

The number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children is on the rise, and with it the incidence of preventable diseases such as measles. The health community could reverse the trend by doing a better ...

Do wearable lifestyle activity monitors really work?

14 hours ago

Wearable electronic activity monitors hold great promise in helping people to reach their fitness and health goals. These increasingly sophisticated devices help the wearers improve their wellness by constantly monitoring ...

User comments : 0