Spending time in nature may slow down Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s

Credit: Unsplash+.

In a study from Harvard, scientists found that living in an area with easy access to parks and rivers appears to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The finding is based on more than a decade and a half tracking disease risk among nearly 62 million Americans 65 years old and up.

Prior research has shown that natural environments—such as forests, parks, and rivers—can help to reduce stress and restore attention.

In addition, natural environments provide settings for physical activity and social interactions and may reduce exposure to air pollution, extreme heat, and traffic noise.

In the study, the team looked at hospital admissions for Alzheimer’s and related dementia, as well as Parkinson’s disease.

To explore the potential protective benefit of nature, the team tested seniors on Medicare living in the U.S. mainland between 2000 and 2016.

Over the study’s 16 years, nearly 7.7 million were hospitalized for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and nearly 1.2 million were hospitalized for Parkinson’s.

Throughout, researchers stacked each patient’s ZIP code up against several types of geological survey data that collectively tallied a region’s overall “greenness.”

That data included the amount of vegetation present, as well as the percentage of land devoted to parks and waterways.

In the end, the green number-crunching yielded mixed results.

On one hand, the team found no evidence that patients living in areas with more parks and waterways had a lower risk of being hospitalized with Alzheimer’s.

But the risk of hospitalization did fall among those who lived in areas with more vegetation overall.

Results were even more positive with respect to the movement disorder Parkinson’s: By all measures studied, living in a greener environment meant a lower risk for hospitalization.

For every increase of 16% in park coverage the risk for hospitalization due to Parkinson’s fell by 3%, for example.

And living in a ZIP code in which 1% or more of the studied space was water, the risk of Parkinson’s hospitalization fell by 3% relative to those in ZIP codes with fewer water bodies.

As to why a greener environment might lower such neurological risk, the team that the study did not look for a specific reason for these links.

If you care about Parkinson’s disease, please read studies that treadmill exercise may reduce Parkinson’s symptoms, and Vitamin E may help prevent Parkinson’s disease.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about a possible way to delay or reverse Alzheimer’s disease, and results showing how alcohol, coffee, and tea intake influence cognitive decline.

The study was conducted by Jochem Klompmaker et al and published in JAMA Network Open.

Copyright © 2023 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.