More Fast Food Means More Heart Attacks, New Study Finds

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A new Australian study presents strong evidence that people living in areas with a high number of fast-food outlets are more likely to suffer heart attacks than their counterparts elsewhere.

The findings were presented at the just-concluded 67th annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand (CSANZ).

According to a report on the study released by the European Society of Cardiology, results also indicated that for every additional fast food outlet in an area, there were four more heart attacks per 100,000 people per year. At the very least, it would seem wise to avoid eating the unhealthiest items at every fast-food chain.

To investigate the possible link between cardiac events and a concentration of fast-food restaurants, researchers considered some 3,070 patients who had suffered myocardial infarction events — heart attacks — admitted to hospitals in a region of New South Wales in Australia.

Defining fast-food restaurants as units of the 10 most popular quick-service operations across Australia, they used postal code information to analyze each patient’s “surrounding fast-food environment.”

“The findings were consistent across rural and metropolitan areas of New South Wales and after adjusting for age, obesity, high blood lipids, high blood pressure, smoking status, and diabetes,” said study author Tarunpreet Saluja of Australia’s University of Newcastle.

However, added Professor Tom Marwick, chair of the CSANZ 2019 Scientific Program Committee, “It will be crucial to explore whether this association is independent of the social determinants of disease, as we know that fast-food outlets are often more common in disadvantaged areas.

The upshot: There is a positive correlation between heart attack rates and fast-food outlet density — though burgers and fries are certainly not the only risk factors. These are 28 other things experts link to heart disease.