Living near green spaces can reduce stroke risk, study finds

The study's authors say the findings warrant further research.

A recent study finds living less than 300 metres away from a green space can reduce the risk of ischaemic stroke, the most common type of cerebrovascular event, by up to 16 per cent.

The data comes from a global healthcare system in Catalonia, Spain that covers more than 3.5 million adults, taken between 2016 and 2017.

The study doesn't specifically show that green spaces are the direct cause of the reduction in stroke risk, but the authors say the findings warrant further analysis.

The team from Spain's Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute looked at three atmospheric pollutants linked to a slight increase in stroke risk in their paper: nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter under 2.5 microns (PM2.5), and soot particles, drawing a direct relationship between the presence of NO2 in the atmosphere and the risk of ischaemic stroke.

"For every increase of 10 micrograms (µg) per cubic metre, this risk increases by 4 per cent," the authors say in a statement.

"The same happens when PM2.5 levels increase by 5 µg/m3. In the case of soot particles, the risk increases by 5 per cent for every 1 µg/m3 increase in the atmosphere. These figures are the same for the entire population, irrespective of other socio-economic factors, age or smoking habits."

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But participants living near green spaces were 16 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke during the study period, suggesting proximity to nature offers some form of protection.

"This study demonstrates the real impact that environmental aspects have on the health of the Catalan population," Dr. Carla Avellaneda, a researcher in the Neurovascular Research Group at Hospital del Mar and one of the main authors of the study said.

"In view of the effects of atmospheric pollution, the lack of green spaces, noise, and so forth, more efforts and populational strategies are needed to reduce its impact. Its harmful effects are permanently and globally damaging. We must strive to achieve more sustainable towns and cities where living does not mean an increased risk of disease."

Past research links several positive health outcomes with spending time in nature, including lowered blood pressure and improved mental health.

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