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May 28, 2014

Foreclosures Take a Toll on Community Health

Living near a foreclosed home increases blood pressure, according to a recent study of Massachusetts residents.

Living in a neighborhood ridden with foreclosures raises blood pressure, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation.

Led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, this study tested the idea that foreclosures don’t just place stress on families who lose their homes—they impact the community. Between 2007 and 2010, foreclosures affected more than 6 million homeowners and more than 1.8 million U.S. homes were foreclosed on in 2011 alone. Aside from those directly impacted by foreclosure, researchers wondered whether simply living near a foreclosed home could have a negative impact on heart health.

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study, investigators analyzed the blood pressure levels of 1,740 Massachusetts residents from 1987–2008. After comparing a map of foreclosures with the blood pressure levels of residents, researchers found that living within a block of a foreclosure was associated with higher blood pressure. In fact, each foreclosed house within a one-block radius was associated with an increase in systolic blood pressure of 1.71mm/hg. However, some of this association was explained after taking into account alcohol consumption and weight of participants.

Still, this study highlights the strong role that our environment plays in our health. High blood pressure impacts one in three adults and the most common treatments to reduce blood pressure include exercise, a healthy diet and medication, when necessary. But what if the root cause of high blood pressure goes beyond our individual lifestyle choices? This study helps raise awareness for the impact that our environment can have on our physical health. It also supports the association between mental and physical health, which is often overlooked in medical practice. To promote better health, it’s important to take all of these factors into account for both the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is stress?

  • Stress is the body’s normal response to events that make you feel threatened or upset in some way. In small doses, stress can motivate us and help us perform responsibilities, but high-doses of stress on a regular basis can have a negative affect on our health. 

  • What are the best ways to help reduce stress?

  • There are a number of techniques that can help reduce and manage stress levels, such as meditation, yoga and breathing. Increasing physical activity can also be a great way to manage stress, as it promotes overall fitness, helps decrease stress and improves sleep.


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