More green space may mean a healthier heart

Heart Health
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According to a recent study, living in a neighborhood with lots of greenery might help protect your heart.

“Our study shows that living in a neighborhood dense with trees, bushes, and other green vegetation may be good for the health of your heart and blood vessels,” said study author Aruni Bhatnagar, director of the University of Louisville’s Diabetes and Obesity Center.  “Indeed, increasing the amount of vegetation in a neighborhood may be an unrecognized environmental influence on cardiovascular health and a potentially significant public health intervention.”

For the study, Bhatnagar and his colleagues looked at the effect of neighborhood green space over five years among people who were seen at the University of Louisville’s outpatient cardiology clinic.  The team assessed blood samples collected from 408 people of varying ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels, most of whom were at risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Bhatnagar’s team assessed these samples for markers of blood vessel injury and the risk for cardiovascular disease. They also measured the density of the green space and levels of air pollution where the participants lived.

The report which was published online Dec. 5 in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that in neighborhoods with more vegetation, people had lower levels of epinephrine in their urine, which indicates lower levels of stress.  

Bhatnagar’s team also found lower levels of F2-isoprostane in the participants’ urine, which indicates less oxidative stress and better health. The study also showed that folks from greener spaces had a greater ability to repair blood vessels.

The association with epinephrine was greater among women, people who had not previously had a heart attack, and those not taking beta blockers, which are drugs that reduce blood pressure and the heart’s workload.

While the findings were independent of age, sex, ethnicity, smoking habits, economic conditions, use of statins and exposure to roads, according to researchers, the study did not prove that greenery caused heart risks to drop; it only observed an association.

To read the full report, click here.

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