Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, approximately 18 million premature deaths are occurring every year. It is the most common among people over 50 years old, and the risk of developing CVDs and related death increases with age. While efforts have been made to modify behavioral and clinical risk factors, e.g., physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, and obesity, there is no noticeable success to reduce the burdens of CVDs at the population level. Since late 1990, there is a growing interest to investigate the effect on health of neighborhood environment to which individuals are exposed. Identifying modifiable environmental factors on those behavioral and clinical risk factors would make policy and environmental intervention possible, which could subsequently lower the burdens of CVDs at the population level. However, it is not clear which environmental factors are potential drivers to each risk factor of CVDs. This may be because environmental factors as well as how individuals respond to the environments are different by geographic and socio-cultural features, and the mechanism of each risk factor may differ. For example, while access to fast food outlets is assumed to increase the risk of obesity in the US, the findings are mixed in different settings.
There are several limitations within the current neighborhood studies for CVD related outcomes. First, there is a lack of studies in non-US settings. Second, there are few studies taking into account multiple dimensions of neighborhood environment such as built, social and natural environment. Third, some CVD related outcomes have not yet been examined whether neighborhood environment matters. In order to fill these research gaps, we will conduct research by using population health nation- and region-wide data in both Sweden and Japan.
Heart failure and stoke are depriving many people's lives. Although we know major risk factors of those fatal conditions, such as obesity, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating, it is difficult to foresee the risk of developing such acute condition in our daily lives. In other words, we rarely realize or think how risky our current lifestyle could be for our future health. In addition, society and circumstances around us encourage a number of activities which potentially increase the risk of those life-threatening conditions. For example, we have built cities which promote people drive more and eat more. These are of course, different by country, region, and population. My research will investigate what kind of circumstance, e.g. accessibility to fast food, green space, we can change to promote healthier lifestyles in the population level by researching diverse population in Sweden and Japan.