Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Supervisor

Frisbee, Stephanie J.

Abstract

Introduction: Previous studies have found that the cardiovascular health of individuals may be influenced not only by their personal characteristics, but also independently by their social relationships and the neighborhoods in which they reside. Still, it is unclear how these determinants act together to influence cardiovascular health and whether these determinants account for differences in cardiovascular health among Canadian adults.

Objective: The main objectives were: 1) to examine the status of cardiovascular health in Canadian adults and, 2) to describe how individual and neighborhood determinants can: a) act together to influence cardiovascular health and, b) account for differences in cardiovascular health among Canadian adults.

Methods: This study employed a cross-sectional design utilizing secondary data from multiple sources. Cardiovascular health was defined by the American Heart Association’s Cardiovascular Health Index – a summed score of 7 clinical and behavioral components known to have the greatest impact on cardiovascular health; ideal health in all 7 components is the healthiest outcome. Data for cardiovascular health was extracted from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2015-2016. Descriptive methods were employed to establish the distribution of cardiovascular health in Canadian adults. Multilevel Mixed Effects Regression Modelling was employed to examine the influence of individual (including interpersonal) and neighborhood determinants on cardiovascular health in a sample of Canadian adults.

Results: Study findings indicated that 27% of Canadians reported ideal health in 6-7 cardiovascular health components, 68% reported ideal health in 3-5 cardiovascular health components, and 5% reported ideal health in only 0-2 cardiovascular health components. Canadian adults were found to be healthier in clinical, as opposed to behavioral, components of cardiovascular health. Multilevel analyses indicated that individual (including interpersonal) and neighborhood determinants acted simultaneously, and even interactionally, to influence cardiovascular health. Further, the neighborhood accounted for up to 7% of the differences in cardiovascular health between individuals, with considerable differences noted between neighborhoods for the influence of determinants on cardiovascular health.

Conclusion: Interventions to improve cardiovascular health should be aimed at encouraging healthier behaviors in Canadian adults and, addressing both individual and neighborhood determinants of health simultaneously in subgroups with the poorest cardiovascular health.

Summary for Lay Audience

Maintaining ideal heart health can help us live a long and healthy life. Research has shown that exercising routinely, eating a healthy diet, and going to regular check-ups with a family practitioner, are all actions that can prevent heart disease such as heart attack and stroke. Still, our heart health is not just affected by our own actions, but also by our social connections and the environment in which we live. In our study, we examined the status of heart health in Canadian adults. We also investigated how our personal attributes and behaviors function together with our social connections and our neighborhoods, to impact heart health. The study used multiple data sources, with heart health derived from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2015-2016. Results of the study showed that only a quarter of the Canadian adult population maintained ideal heart health by way of healthy behaviors, proper lifestyle choices and avoiding early signs of heart disease, such as high cholesterol and diabetes. Further, our personal attributes such as age, education, and race, functioned together with our social connections and our neighborhoods to determine our heart health. Differences in heart health between individuals were not only due to differences between individuals, based on our personal attributes, but were also due to differences between our neighborhoods, based on neighborhood attributes. Overall, this study is important because it revealed low levels of ideal heart health in Canadian adults, which require urgent action. Additionally, the study highlighted the key roles of social connections and the neighborhood in actions towards improving heart health.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Available for download on Saturday, January 01, 2022

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