People with good neighbours and strong community ties are less likely to suffer heart attacks, new research suggests.

Researchers tracked the health of more than 5,000 American adults over the age of 50 with no known heart problems over four years from 2006.

At the start of the study, published in the Journal Epidemiology and Community Health, the participants were asked to describe how much they were part of their neighbourhood.

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The "perceived neighbourhood social cohesion" survey saw participants answer the questions on a seven-point scale about their neighbours and community. They were asked how much they felt part of their neighbourhood, whether there would be lots of people to help them if they were ever in trouble, how much they trusted people in their area and how friendly their neighbours were.

Of the 5,276 people studied, 148 had heart attacks during the four-year follow up period. Researchers found that people have a reduced risk of heart attack if they responded positively to the questions. They found that on the seven-point scale, each point increase in perceived neighbourhood social cohesion was associated with a 17% reduced risk of a heart attack.

While the authors from the University of Michigan called for more research, they said previous studies have linked social support to improved heart health.