Neighborhood Environment and DNA Methylation: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease Risk

  • Carmen GiurgescuEmail author
  • Alexandra L. Nowak
  • Shannon Gillespie
  • Timiya S. Nolan
  • Cindy M. Anderson
  • Jodi L. Ford
  • Daryl B. Hood
  • Karen Patricia Williams


Exposure to chronic stress such as living in disadvantaged neighborhoods has been related to cardiovascular disease (CVD). Chronic stress may increase the risk for CVD by increasing levels of systemic inflammation (e.g., higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines). Differential DNA methylation of inflammation-related candidate genes is also related to higher risk for CVD. Thus, the purpose of this review was to examine the association of neighborhood disadvantage with DNA methylation. A search of literature was conducted using Scopus, CINAHL, PubMed, Medline, and Embase databases. The keywords neighborhood, neighborhood disorder, neighborhood crime, neighborhood violence, neighborhood safety, built environment, and housing vacancy were combined with the keywords DNA methylation and epigenetics. Five studies were included in this review (n = 3 adult blood samples and n = 2 fetal blood samples). Four of the five studies reported an association of neighborhood socioeconomic status, social environment, and crime with either global or gene-specific DNA methylation. Only two studies examined the association of neighborhood disadvantage with inflammation-related candidate genes. One of these studies found a significant association of neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and social environment with DNA methylation in inflammation-related candidate genes. Thus, data are limited on the association between neighborhood disadvantage and DNA methylation of inflammation-related candidate genes, as well as genes in other potential mechanistic pathways including psychosocial stress, toxin response, and adiposity. Future studies should examine these associations and the potential epigenetic mechanisms by which neighborhood disadvantage increases the risk for CVD.


Neighborhood DNA methylation Stress Depression Inflammation 



There was no funding for this review article.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmen Giurgescu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alexandra L. Nowak
    • 1
  • Shannon Gillespie
    • 1
  • Timiya S. Nolan
    • 1
  • Cindy M. Anderson
    • 1
  • Jodi L. Ford
    • 1
  • Daryl B. Hood
    • 2
  • Karen Patricia Williams
    • 1
  1. 1.College of NursingThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.College of Public HealthThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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