People who live in green neighbourhoods are less likely to suffer cardiovascular illness, according to new research.
The research findings were presented at the ESC Congress 2021.
“Higher levels of greenness were related with a reduction in heart disease and stroke rates over time, both when an area maintained a high degree of greenness and when it increased,” study author Dr William Aitken of the University of Miami in the United States explained.
“It was interesting that these associations emerged in only five years, a remarkably brief period for a good environmental impact,” Dr Aitken noted.
Making streets and neighbourhoods greener has numerous benefits, and this study examined whether it had any effect on heart disease rates.
Additionally, the researchers assessed whether increasing vegetation in a community would result in a reduction in heart disease over time.
Between 2011 and 2016, the study comprised 243,558 US Medicare enrollees aged 65 and older who lived in the same neighbourhood of Miami. The incidence of new cardiovascular disorders such as heart attack, atrial fibrillation, heart failure, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and stroke/transient ischaemic attack was determined using Medicare information during a five-year period.
The quantity of visible and near-infrared (i.e. invisible) sunlight reflected from the Earth’s surface was determined using satellite photos.
Because chlorophyll from plants absorbs visible light and reflects near-infrared light, determining the amount of vegetation is straightforward. City blocks were then categorised according to their degree of greenness as low, medium, or high.
In 2011, participants were classified according to whether they lived in low, medium, or high greenness blocks.
In 2016, the process was repeated for the same residents and their block’s greenness.
Miami-Dade County Parks performed tree planting programmes over that time period, which meant that someone living in a low-greenness block in 2011 may be living in a high-greenness block in 2016.
The researchers calculated the probability of having any new cardiovascular disease, as well as the number of new cardiovascular disorders, using block-level greenness.
Other potential risk variables for new-onset heart disease were accounted for in the studies, including age, sex, race/ethnicity, the number of baseline cardiovascular diseases, and neighbourhood characteristics such as median household income and walkability.
The researchers initially compared the heart health of those who lived continuously in high- or low-greenness locations during a five-year period.
Throughout the trial, residents of high-greenness blocks had a 16% lower risk of getting any new cardiovascular problems than residents of low-greenness blocks (odds ratio [OR]=0.84; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.79-0.90; p<0.001).
Among participants who got a cardiovascular condition during follow-up, those living in high greenness areas developed 4% fewer new conditions (OR=0.96; 95% CI 0.92-0.99; p<0.05).
The researchers next compared the heart health of those who lived in greener neighbourhoods to those who remained in areas with little greenery.
When compared to residents in low-greenness areas throughout the trial, those who moved from low-greenness areas in 2011 to high-green areas in 2016 had a 15% lower risk of developing new cardiovascular problems (OR=0.85; 95% CI 0.75-0.97; p<0.001).
Among participants who developed a cardiovascular condition during the study, those who lived in a greener neighbourhood developed 9% fewer new cardiovascular conditions than residents who lived in areas with consistently low levels of greenness throughout the study (OR=0.91; 95% CI 0.83-0.99; p<0.05).
“We suspect that these observations are due to a combination of variables. For example, residents of greener places may engage in more outdoor activity and may experience less stress as a result of their proximity to nature “According to Dr Aitken.
“Additionally, vegetation may act as a buffer against air and/or noise pollution. This is a topic worth exploring more “Dr Aitken continued.
“Tree planting and neighbourhood greening are connected with several advantages and represent a relatively low-cost investment opportunity to improve health and well-being in a variety of contexts,” Dr Aitken explained.
“For the price of a single emergency department visit for a heart attack, trees might be planted in a community of 100 individuals, potentially preventing ten heart illnesses,” Dr Aitken concluded.
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