Neighbourhoods with more green space may reduce heart disease

Neighbourhoods with more green space may reduce heart disease
© iStock/gremlin

Those who live in leafy neighbourhoods with more green space are more likely to reduce heart disease symptoms.

Researchers from the University of Louisville, USA, investigated the impact of neighbourhood green spaces on individual-level markers of stress and cardiovascular disease risk. Now published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study found that areas with an increased amount of green space may potentially reduce heart disease chances from occurring.

Benefits of green space

Blood and urine samples were collected from 408 people of varying ages, ethnicity and socioeconomic levels, over the course of 5 years, then assessed for biomarkers of blood vessel injury and the risk of having cardiovascular disease. The risk was calculated using biomarkers measured from blood and urine samples.

The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a tool that indicates levels of vegetation density created from satellite imagery collected by NASA and USGS, measured the density of the greenspaces near the participants’ residences.

Researchers found living in areas with more green vegetation was associated with the following:

  • Lower urinary levels of epinephrine, indicating lower levels of stress
  • Lower urinary levels of F2-isoprostane, indicating better health (less oxidative stress)
  • Higher capacity to repair blood vessels.

Can this reduce heart disease?

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., lead study author and professor of medicine and director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Center explains: “Our study shows that living in a neighbourhood dense with trees, bushes and other green vegetation may be good for the health of your heart and blood vessels.”

“Indeed, increasing the amount of vegetation in a neighbourhood may be an unrecognized environmental influence on cardiovascular health and a potentially significant public health intervention.”

The findings were independent of age, sex, ethnicity, smoking status, neighbourhood deprivation, use of statin medications and roadway exposure.

According to Bhatnagar previous studies have also suggested that neighbourhood green space is typically associated with positive effects on overall physical and psychosocial health and well-being, as well as reduced rates of death from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and improved rates of stroke survival.

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