Background — Individuals living in unwalkable neighborhoods appear to be less physically active and more likely to develop obesity, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. It is unclear whether neighborhood walkability is a risk factor for future cardiovascular disease.
Methods and Results — We studied residents living in major urban centers in Ontario, Canada on January 1, 2008, using linked electronic medical record and administrative health data from the Cardiovascular Health in Ambulatory Care Research Team (CANHEART) cohort. Walkability was assessed using a validated index based on population and residential density, street connectivity, and the number of walkable destinations in each neighborhood, divided into quintiles (Q). The primary outcome was a predicted 10-year cardiovascular disease risk of ≥7.5% (recommended threshold for statin use) assessed by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Pooled Cohort Equation. Adjusted associations were estimated using logistic regression models. Secondary outcomes included measured systolic blood pressure, total and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, prior diabetes mellitus diagnosis, and current smoking status. In total, 44 448 individuals were included in our analyses. Fully adjusted analyses found a nonlinear relationship between walkability and predicted 10-year cardiovascular disease risk (least [Q1] versus most [Q5] walkable neighborhood: odds ratio =1.09, 95% CI: 0.98, 1.22), with the greatest difference between Q3 and Q5 (odds ratio=1.33, 95% CI: 1.23, 1.45). Dose–response associations were observed for systolic blood pressure, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk, while an inverse association was observed with smoking status.
Conclusions — In our setting, adults living in lower walkability neighborhoods had a higher predicted 10-year cardiovascular disease risk than those living in highly walkable areas.