Living near trees may prevent vascular damage, study finds

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In a new study, researchers found that living near an abundance of green vegetation can offset the negative effects of air pollution on blood vessel health.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Louisville.

Previous studies have shown that proximity to green space—trees and other vegetation—can lower blood pressure levels and the risk of heart disease.

A number of environmental factors may come into play, including an increased opportunity for outdoor exercise, reduced mental stress, and socioeconomic status.

However, the link between vascular (blood vessel) health, green space, and air pollution has not been fully explored.

In this study, researchers looked at the arterial stiffness of adults with health conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, which put the volunteers in the moderate-to-severe risk category for heart disease.

The research team analyzed environmental factors where the volunteers lived.

They found at times when the particulate matter and ozone levels were high, participants had higher levels of arterial stiffness.

However, those who lived in areas with more flora had better blood vessel function. Trees and other greenery offset vascular dysfunction that air pollution causes.

The benefits are independent of physical activity levels and tobacco use.

These findings show that living in green areas may be important for vascular health and that the health effects of greenness may be attributable to attenuated exposure to air pollutants such as particulate matter and ozone.

One author of the study is Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D., a professor of medicine.

The study is published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

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