Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Living in a green neighbourhood is not only good for your stress levels; it may help to protect you from heart disease too…

People living in a leafy, green neighbourhood may have a lower risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

This is according to a new and first-of-its-kind study in which researchers from the University of Louisville investigated the impact of neighbourhood greenspaces on individuals’ markers of stress and cardiovascular disease risk.

Extensive five-year study

“… Increasing the amount of vegetation in a neighbourhood may be an unrecognised environmental influence on cardiovascular health…” – Prof Aruni Bhatnagar

Over five years, blood and urine samples were collected from 408 people recruited from the University of Louisville’s outpatient cardiology clinic. Most of the participants had an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.

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The samples were assessed for biomarkers of blood-vessel injury and the risk of having cardiovascular disease.

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

Air pollution levels were also assessed using particulate matter from the EPA and roadway exposure measurements.

Heart disease linked to poor air quality

Measurable health benefits of green neighbourhoods

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

  • 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

Women are less stressed in green neighbourhoods

The researchers also found that associations with epinephrine were stronger among women, study participants not taking beta-blockers, and people who had not previously had a heart attack.

“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,” says Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., lead study author and professor of medicine and director of the University of Louisville Diabetes and Obesity Centre.

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

Why green neighbourhoods matter

Source: American Heart Association via