Areas plagued by fast food restaurants have higher rates of heart attacks, scientists have claimed.
Researchers in Australia found the more takeaway chains there were in an area, the more of the killer cardiac events occurred.
Scientists used data from 3,070 patients admitted to hospitals in New South Wales with a heart attack between 2011 and 2013.
Each patient's home address was noted, so experts could see how many fast food chains existed in each of their neighborhoods.
For every additional takeaway store in the area, there were roughly four more heart attacks per 1,000 people every year, the experts found.
Areas plagued by fast food restaurants have higher rates of heart attacks, scientists in Australia have found
The findings were the same in both rural and urban areas, even after adjusting for other risk factors of a heart attack, including high blood pressure.
Experts at the University of Newcastle presented the study at the annual Scientific Meeting of the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand.
Study author Tarunpreet Saluja said: 'The results emphasize the importance of the food environment as a potential contributor towards health.'
Fast food outlets were defined as the ten most popular quick service food retailers in Australia, based on a population survey conducted in 2018.
The two most popular quick service restaurants are McDonald’s, visited by nearly a third of Australians once a month, and KFC, now visited by nearly a quarter in a month, according to market research company Roy Morgan.
The scientists did not explain why the link exists - nor did they acknowledge poorer areas are more likely to have an abundance of fast food stores.
Public Health England found deprived areas in the UK such as Blackpool have five times more fast food outlets than affluent areas.
And it's previously been found that areas with a large number of takeout shops have more obese residents - obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.
Figures suggest there are 200,000 hospital visits because of heart attacks in the UK each year, while there are around 800,000 annually in the US.
A heart attack, known medically as a myocardial infarction, occurs when the supply of blood to the heart is