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Study: Boro’s wealthy aren’t so healthy

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Gentrified Brooklyn may be wealthier, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthier.

Residents of some of the toniest Brooklyn neighborhoods have a rate of premature death from heart disease that’s 10 percent higher than the city as a whole, and on par with Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights and Brownsville, according to the a new report released last week by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In the study area that includes Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Downtown, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Park Slope and Red Hook, the death rate from heart disease between 2003 and 2004 was 334 per 100,000 — as compared to the 297 per 100,000 rate in the city as a whole.

Northwest Brooklynites also got a below-average grade in binge drinking (or would that be an above-average grade?).

In those neighborhoods, 20 percent of residents over 18 are estimated to have drunk to excess at least once a month, in contrast to 12 percent in Brooklyn overall, and 14 percent citywide.

The binge drinkers are disproportionately white men, the report said.

Health Department experts say they’re not quite sure how to explain the elevated heart disease death rate, given the population’s more widespread health insurance coverage, better education, and higher exercise rate.

“We don’t know exactly why we see these differences, which is the reason why we take this local-level data,” said research scientist Cari Olson, who wrote the report.

But Olson did point out that the population of the study area is hardly uniform.

“Northwest Brooklyn includes not just neighborhoods which have been gentrified, but also [lower-income] areas like Red Hook, Downtown, and Gowanus, where you’re more likely to see the same kinds of health disparities as in areas like Central and North Brooklyn,” said Olson.

As far as binge drinking is concerned, Olson pointed to cultural factors.

“Binge drinking is more common among people of higher incomes,” said Olson. “That may be because they have more expendable income, and more cash. And there may be more cultural acceptance to use binge drinking to deal with stress.”

On the bright side, the district is also slightly less obese and less prone to diabetes than the citywide average.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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