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Your Environment. Your Health.

Greener Neighborhoods Linked to Better Heart Health

Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
University of Louisville
R01ES019217, P42ES023716, R01ES029846

Living in green neighborhoods may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by decreasing the body’s stress and boosting its ability to repair blood vessels, according to a new study by NIEHS grantees. Previous studies linking lower risk of cardiovascular disease with green spaces mainly relied on subjective questionnaires. This study is the first to provide direct evidence of physiological changes in people associated with living in green spaces.

The researchers measured biomarkers of cardiovascular disease in individuals who lived in neighborhoods with varying levels of greenness. The study participants included 408 outpatients from a preventive cardiology clinic. The greenness of their neighborhoods was estimated based on satellite data related to the coverage and density of vegetation.

Higher vegetation density within a 250-meter and 1-kilometer radius around participants’ residences were associated with lower urinary levels of a stress-related hormone called epinephrine. This effect was stronger in women, participants who were not taking blood pressure medications called beta-blockers, and individuals who had not previously experienced a heart attack.

Greenness was also linked to lower urinary levels of a molecule called F2‐isoprostane, a marker of oxidative stress, which suggested a link between green spaces and a decrease in oxidative stress. Blood cell measurements also revealed that living in green neighborhoods was associated with a better capacity for wound healing and repairing blood vessels.

Citation: Yeager R, Riggs DW, DeJarnett N, Tollerud DJ, Wilson J, Conklin DJ, O'Toole TE, McCracken J, Lorkiewicz P, Xie Z, Zafar N, Krishnasamy SS, Srivastava S, Finch J, Keith RJ, DeFilippis A, Rai SN, Liu G, Bhatnagar A. 2018. Association between residential greenness and cardiovascular disease risk. J Am Heart Assoc 7(24):e009117.

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