Living near green spaces may lower the risk of strokes, study finds

Photo (c) Tom Merton - Getty Images

Experts say having distance from pollutants and more access to outdoor areas can benefit consumers’ health

Recent studies have highlighted the physical and mental health benefits associated with spending time in outdoor spaces. 

Now, researchers from the Hospital Del Mar Medical Research Institute have found that living close to green areas may lower the risk of stroke by more than 15%. 

“The study demonstrates the importance of environmental determinants in stroke risk,” said researcher Dr. Carla Avellaneda. “Given that it is predicted that the incidence, mortality, and disability attributed to the disease will increase in the coming years, it is important to understand all the risk factors involved. People who are surrounded by greater levels of greenery at their place of residence are protected against the onset of stroke.” 

Green spaces improve cardiovascular health

For the study, the researchers analyzed levels of three pollutants in Catalonia, Spain, between 2016 and 2017: particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and soot particles. The study included information on 7.5 million residents, including data on the available green spaces in their neighborhoods and the impact of these factors on their cardiovascular health. 

The researchers learned that pollution levels had a close link to stroke risk. When participants lived in heavily populated areas with a lot of car traffic, their risk of stroke was higher.

The study showed that the risk of stroke increased by 4% for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase of NO2. Similarly, every 5 micrograms per cubic meter increase of PM2.5 increased the risk of stroke by 4%, while each 1 microgram per cubic meter increase of soot particles raised the risk of stroke by 5%. 

“It should be borne in mind that, unlike other air pollutants, which have various sources, NO2 is mainly caused in road traffic,” said researcher Cathryn Tonne. “Therefore, if we really want to reduce the multiple risks that this pollutant poses to people’s health, we need to implement bold measures to reduce car use.” 

On the other end of the spectrum, those who lived in areas with less car traffic and more green spaces experienced notable differences in their stroke risk. The more green spaces that were close to the participants’ homes, the lower their risk of stroke. 

Ultimately, the team found that participants could lower their risk of stroke by as much as 16% by living closer to outdoor green areas. They believe more outdoor spaces help consumers stay physically active, maintain healthy stress levels, and make social interaction easier. 

“People who are surrounded by greater levels of greenery at their place of residence are protected against the onset of stroke,” Dr. Avellaneda said. 

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