Change in Neighborhood Characteristics and Change in Coronary Artery Calcium: A Longitudinal Investigation in the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) Cohort

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Although some evidence shows that neighborhood deprivation is associated with greater subclinical atherosclerosis, prior studies have not identified what aspects of deprived neighborhoods were driving the association.


We investigated whether social and physical neighborhood characteristics are related to the progression of subclinical atherosclerosis in 5950 adult participants of the MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) during a 12-year follow-up period. We assessed subclinical disease using coronary artery calcium (CAC). Neighborhood features examined included density of recreational facilities, density of healthy food stores, and survey-based measures of availability of healthy foods, walking environment, and social environment. We used econometric fixed-effects models to investigate how change in a given neighborhood exposure is related to simultaneous change in subclinical atherosclerosis.


Increases in density of neighborhood healthy food stores were associated with decreases in CAC (mean changes in CAC Agatston units per 1-SD increase in neighborhood exposures, −19.99; 95% confidence interval, −35.21 to −4.78) after adjustment for time-varying demographic confounders and computed tomography scanner type. This association remained similar in magnitude after additional adjustment for time-varying behavioral risk factors and depression. The addition of time-varying biomedical factors attenuated associations with CAC slightly (mean changes in CAC per 1-SD increase in neighborhood exposures, −17.60; 95% confidence interval, −32.71 to −2.49). Changes across time in other neighborhood measures were not significantly associated with within-person change in CAC.


Results from this longitudinal study provide suggestive evidence that greater access to neighborhood healthy food resources may slow the development of coronary atherosclerosis in middle-aged and older adults.

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