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An increase in blood pressure (BP) in people living in safe Chicago neighborhoods was associated with a spike in crimes committed, according to a study presented at the 2018 AHA Scientific Sessions in Chicago, Illinois, from November 10-14. 

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Higher rates of hypertension are common in people who live in high-crime areas. The allostatic load theory states that exogenous stress over time can cause BP response. Because there is not much known about the immediate impact of violent crimes on BP, investigators examined the association and relationship between rising crime rates in low- vs high-crime areas.

In 2015, Chicago’s rising violent crime rate created natural conditions to analyze changes in blood pressure in people living in low- and high-crime neighborhoods. Health records of people ≥18 years of age who visited outpatient clinics between May 2014 and August 2016 at an academic medical center in Chicago were examined. Elevated blood pressure (systolic BP ≥ 140 mm Hg or diastolic BP ≥ 90 mm Hg) and absolute changes in systolic BP were compared 1 year before and after the crime spikes. 

After adjusting for confounding variables, mixed-effects regression models were used to compare BP changes in people who lived in low- vs high-crime areas.

Of the 53,402 patients in the sample population, 54.6% were black and 63.7% were female; mean age was 48 years. Results showed that there were fewer people with elevated BP in low-crime areas (mean= 22.5%) compared with high-crime areas (36.5%). However, the 2015 crime spike was associated with a significant increase in the adjusted odds for elevated BP in low-crime areas (1.09, 95% CI, 1.03-1.15) and increased absolute systolic BP (β = 0.6 mm Hg, 95% CI, 0.4-0.9).

“In Chicago, the 2015 crime surge was associated with a larger increase in BP for patients living in low-crime areas than in high-crime areas, possibly due to differences in baseline exposure to exogenous stress”, according to the authors.

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Investigators of this study have nothing to disclose.


Tung EL, Besser SA, Chua R, et al. Rising violent crime and changes in blood pressure in Chicago. Presented at: 2018 AHA Scientific Sessions; November 10-11, 2018; Chicago, IL. Abstract Sa1099/1099.

This article originally appeared on The Cardiology Advisor