The World Heart Federation has released a new report, Urbanization and Cardiovascular Disease: Raising Heart-healthy Children in Today’s Cities, which shows how urban life impacts heart-healthy behavior.

Although urbanization brings with it many opportunities—such as employment choices, healthcare, educational prospects, social connections and political mobilization—city life inherently comes with obstacles to adopting heart-healthy behaviors, according to the report.

For example, foods high in salt, sugar and fats are often more cheaply and readily available than fresh fruits and vegetables in urban settings. Children are particularly vulnerable to the negative health aspects associated with city life, as they have the least independence from, and are most manipulated by, their living environment. In addition, unplanned urbanization is accompanied by limitations on space for physical activity including lack of planning, crime, and heavy and dangerous traffic.

Heart disease is not just an issue of lifestyle and individual behavior choices, it is the environment around such diseases that have a major impact, the report emphasizes.

The report presents several case studies showing that informed action by governments and key stakeholders who take a whole-of-society approach can dramatically reduce the level of cardiovascular disease risk.

Download the full report or the executive summary here:

1. Smith, S. et al. Urbanization and Cardiovascular Disease: Raising Heart-healthy Children in Today’s Cities. Geneva: World Heart Federation, 2012.