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Where you live in Toronto can increase your risk for cardiac arrest: study

Toronto, January 6, 2012

By Kate Taylor

TORONTO, Ont., Jan. 6, 2012-- Living in certain areas of Toronto can increase your risk of cardiac arrest by up to five times, according to new research from St. Michael’s Hospital.

The study found people living in southwest and central Scarborough, western parts of North York and north Etobicoke had the highest rates of cardiac arrest – about 500 per 100,000 people – and the lowest rates were those within north Scarborough, downtown Toronto, East York and the northeast part of North York – about 160 per100,000 people (see map below).


Southwest and central Scarborough, western parts of North York and north Etobicoke had the highest rates of cardiac arrest. The lowest rates were in north Scarborough, downtown Toronto, East York and the northeast part of North York.

"The risk for cardiac arrest varied widely from one area to another regardless of how close they were to each other on a map," said Katherine Allan, a PhD student and the lead investigator of the study. "Which means living on the north side of a street that divides two neighbourhoods could mean you’re up to five times more likely to suffer a cardiac arrest."

Previous studies of out of hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) have looked at where the cardiac arrest occurred rather than the victim’s place of residence. This omits important information about what factors may have contributed to the OHCA, such as environment and lifestyle, Allan said.

This study mapped each OHCA patient’s home address to one of 527 census tracts, or one of 140 neighbourhoods in Toronto.

There were 5656 participants, all aged 20 or older and who had experienced an OHCA in Toronto from 2006-2010.

Allan and colleagues examined possible factors that contribute to cardiac arrest within each neighbourhood such as socioeconomic status (SES) (education level, income), health status (rates of diabetes) and how activity-friendly the neighbourhoods were (walkability, green space).

In their preliminary analyses, they found several factors had a strong relationship with the risk of cardiac arrest – neighbourhoods that had higher household incomes and those that had higher levels of education were associated with lower risk.

"The data is important for prevention efforts," Allan said. "We often look at how to prevent cardiac arrest in terms of getting resources to the areas where it occurred, but this research goes back to see what lifestyle factors or behaviours contribute to the risk."

The study was published in an abstract in the journal Circulation. Allan and colleagues are expanding the results to look at how the combination of these risk factors in a neighbourhood can predict future patterns of cardiac arrest rates.

Cardiac arrest data was from Rescu. Rescu is the Toronto site of the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC), a large, multinational research collaboration of 10 sites across the United States and Canada, studying how promising new tools and treatments can improve survival rates among people who suffer cardiac arrest or life-threatening traumatic injury.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 23 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

For more information, please contact:

Kate Taylor
Public Relations Specialist
Phone: 416-864-6060, ext. 6537
TaylorKa@smh.ca