Violent Crime Spikes Blood Pressure Rates In Safe Neighborhoods, According To A New Study

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Cardiovascular Business recently reported that the spike in violent crime could potentially trigger higher blood pressures among individuals living in what are considered safe neighborhoods. This news comes in after a recent study of 50,000 adults living in Chicago, Illinois. The study is slated for presentation at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions on November 10.

Doctor Elizabeth Tung, an instructor of medicine at the University of Chicago, and her colleagues focused on the peak of violent crime — the FBI defines violent crime as murder, robbery, assault, and rape — that Chicago experienced in 2016. The rate did fall the following year. The team of researchers explored the relationship between crime rates in Chicago and the blood pressure patterns of the city’s residents during 2016.

Tung and her colleagues used data from the Chicago Police Data Portal to match up violent crime rates to the home addresses of patients from various nearby outpatient clinics. A total of 54 percent of the adults enrolled in the study were black and 64 percent were female. Researchers found that lower crime communities had lower rates of high blood pressure when compared to the higher crime communities. The study population showed that rising crime rates were linked to a 3 percent increased risk of an individual developing higher blood pressure. These results suggest that the stress associated with violent crime has “far reaching effects,” say Tung and the other researchers.

According to Tung and her colleagues, they did not expect to find a separation in crime-related blood pressure spikes between neighborhoods. Yet that is exactly what they found during the study. Those living in crime-ridden areas were compared with people living in safe neighborhoods. Findings showed that those living in the safe neighborhoods saw 9 percent higher odds of increased blood pressure.

“I saw anecdotal evidence of this. I had friends living in low-crime neighborhoods who were extremely anxious about rising crime rates in the city. Crime, and particularly violent crime, is a unique stressor because people prioritize safety. Safety is second in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but in many ways, it can get in the way of more basic needs, like access to healthy food.”

Researchers say that anxiety could affect health outcomes. For instance, the researchers used an example of patients feeling unsafe while walking to their local pharmacy and missing several doses of a prescription medication; Tung says such a scenario could skewer the patient’s treatment for high blood pressure.